Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hampton, Va.  Photo: John Grace via The Washington Post

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Catholic Energies, a nonprofit organization that helps churches across the country switch to solar energy, is helping the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to install 5,000 solar panels, the largest ground array in the nation’s capital, on a 5-acre plot owned by the Archdiocese that will provide Catholic Charities enough energy credits to offset the electricity costs of 12 of its properties across the District.  This is the second energy-saving project for Catholic Energies which just finished an installation of 440 solar panels on the roof of a Virginia church last month.  And the DC solar panels will sit atop a “pollinator meadow” of 650,000 nectar-bearing, flowering plants including black-eyed Susans, orange coneflowers and milkweed that are intended to invigorate local bee and butterfly populations.

Why This Matters:  This just goes to show that when the leader at the very top of an organization, such as a Pope or a President, provides leadership and moral direction, people will make it happen.  Pope Francis has often spoken out and convened leaders from around the globe urging them to address climate change.  He said in his 2015 Encyclical, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” And he pressed for an “ecological conversion” by Catholics, imploring them to take care of the planet — to embrace things like recycling, tree planting and carpooling.  Amen to that.  Hopefully, more faith-based organizations will do the same.

Catholic Church and Climate Change

  • According to The Post, Catholic Energies is a sub-program of the nonprofit Catholic Climate Covenant, a national initiative launched in 2006 that seeks to educate and engage U.S. Catholics in caring for the environment.
  • It is working in other areas too — Catholic Energies told The Post that it has “about 25 projects in the pipeline, in eight states, representing between $12 million and $15 million in construction.”
  • Dan Misleh, the founder and executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant, said that there are other dioceses around the country, including in Atlanta and San Diego, that are working to switch their parishes and schools to solar power, however, only Catholic Energies is helping Catholic institutions to do so free of charge.

The Catholic Energies Funding Model

  • First, Catholic Energies conducts a free feasibility study and comes up with a possible design with the goal of creating at least 10 percent savings for Catholic institutions.
  • Then Catholic Energies locates a third-party investor, next letting the institution choose among several solar contractors, and finally, construction begins.
  • The investor agrees to pays the contractor to install a solar system in return the investor receives a 30 percent federal tax credit, as well as local financial incentives that vary by state — DC’s happen to be the most generous in the country.

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