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Three Catholic Diocese of Arlington Parishes Go Solar with Catholic Energies
As Virginia moves toward 100% renewable energy, some Catholic churches embrace third-party financing program for nonprofits to lower costs and care for Creation
Washington, D.C.– Three parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington have completed solar projects with Catholic Energies this month, bringing the total number of Arlington Catholic churches using solar power to four. The churches are: Nativity Catholic Church in Burke, St. Bernadette Church in Springfield and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church. Together the projects will generate an additional 750 kW of renewable energy, produce clean power for decades, and save the churches more than $1.5M in energy operating costs combined during the term of their solar agreements.
The Diocesan projects were developed in partnership with Catholic Energies, a service of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Catholic Climate Covenant, which helps guide the U.S. Church’s response to climate change and care for creation.
“These projects represent a sustainable future, and serve as beacons of hope,” said Dan Misleh, executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant. “We can help them save money on their electricity bills while they in turn help communities lower their carbon emissions, and serve as living examples of how we can, and must, all care for God’s magnificent gift of Creation.”
The energy required to power U.S. buildings is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases in U.S., and these projects will help reduce those emissions. By collectively generating nearly 750 kW of renewable energy, these three Diocese of Arlington projects are expected to offset nearly 28k tons of greenhouse gas emissions as calculated by the Department of Energy standards (this is equivalent to about 68.4 million miles driven by an average passenger car.)
Broken down by system size of kW of renewable energy, the projects will generate:
- St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Falls Church, VA – 421.33kW
- St. Bernadette Catholic Church, Springfield, VA – 248kW
- Nativity Catholic Church, Burke, VA – 75.6kW
For Catholic churches and organizations that wish to install solar power and other energy-efficiency equipment, Catholic Energies serves as a one-stop project developer at no cost to them. By facilitating the conversion of buildings in a parish, school or other entity through energy efficiency and renewable energy, Catholic institutions live up to the challenge of the seminal Laudato Si’ encyclical on Care for our Common Home,in practice and in teaching.
Parishes have an option to pay upfront or finance the solar projects. However, another financing model for nonprofits is gaining popularity in Virginia, especially after the recent passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which seeks for the state to move toward 100% renewable energy.
Through a “Power Purchase Agreement” (PPA,) the churches pay no upfront costs for solar projects. Instead, Catholic Energies has secured third-party investors who will pay for the entire solar project. In return the investor receives tax credits, plus payments from the church for the generated solar power. The PPA defines the rate paid by the church for the solar power. The Catholic institution pays for the solar power at a discount compared to their current utility power rate, saving on operating costs monthly and year over year. In addition, the institution has options throughout the PPA terms to purchase the system outright. Through the PPA, parishes can also get power- and cost-saving LED lighting retrofits.
“The Clean Economy Act has really propelled the state to become a leader in solar consumption,” said Page Gravely, head of client services at Catholic Energies. “It’s probably the best time ever in the history of the state of Virginia to make an investment in solar.”
The projects will continue to be part of a national effort by Catholic Energies to help parishes act on Catholic social teaching that calls for care for creation and protecting the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. As the nation faces a historic moment when restoring the environment and acting on climate justice for the most impacted communities is inextricably connected, the Church is acting through Diocesan efforts such as these renewable projects to give witness and to continue educating the parish and local community on the importance of climate solutions for our future.
About Catholic Climate Covenant:
Catholic Climate Covenant is a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that includes 19 U.S. Catholic partner institutions. It was formed under the auspices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006. The Covenant helps guide the U.S. Church’s response to the moral calling to act on care for Creation including climate change and caring for the poor by educating, giving public witness and offering concrete resources.
About Catholic Energies:
Catholic Energies is a Catholic Climate Covenant program created in response to “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” the encyclical signed by Pope Francis in 2015 that started new conversations on how we can fulfill our duty to care for Creation by highlighting climate change as a moral issue. Catholic Energies began with a pilot program in 2016-17 with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The national Catholic Energies program officially launched in late 2017, expanding to include renewable energy in 2018.