What is taking solar power so long to catch on?

What is taking solar power so long to catch on?


I propose a challenge to all our parishes and other religious sites: install solar power. Home owners too might consider it. Pope Francis would approve. In his May 2015 letter Laudato Si’, he approved this renewable source of electricity because more and more toxic carbons are being spilled into the atmosphere. He knew the controversy of speaking in a leadership way about climate change as caused by human behavior. He knew that vested interests refuse to reduce our global carbon footprint, interests that sell carbon. He knew he would be charged with radical leftism, as were those who promoted seat belts, baby seats in cars and even fluoride in the drinking water. We have heard no apologies from that camp yet.

If solar consumers could be patient and await the break-even point of perhaps six years, the savings in electric bills would pay for the roof-top equipment. All you have to have is roof space with sunshine year round. But moon light, star light and even the street lamps shining on panels will boost panels’ intake, free. These savings start on the day the panels go up. After that, the bill from the electric company is pennies. Laws allow solar companies to provide lessees (but not buyers) only enough panels to power a parish or home or company with what it had been using before installation. Refunds from the public utility company come to panel owners if they purchase the equipment outright. However most lease them at perhaps a third the cost. They do this because leasing leaves the solar company the responsibility of servicing, insuring and repairing them. In this latter case, the company receives the tax incentives offered by the state to encourage solar power, but utility rebates for under-usage go to the consumer. Would you like to see your parish’s electric bill plummet?

Think what witness value there would be if our churches and rectories, schools and convents showed the community that we endorse Pope Francis and his forward thinking for the good of the entire world. It would stimulate not only us Catholics but everyone to do our part to cut the noxious particulates that raise global temperature and that foul lungs. We Catholics are sometimes criticized for anti-progressive or unscientific thinking. Before Vatican II we were attacked for denying human evolution from other forms of life. Pope John Paul II ended our vulnerability when he stated that we may subscribe to any of the several theories of human evolution as long as they have God as the ultimate originator of humanity, which is the point of both creation accounts in Genesis. And we Catholics have had a public-relations problem in certain areas too delicate to go into here. A little good press would be appreciated.

What is taking solar and wind power so long to catch on? The above vested interests spend millions advertising what coal and oil and natural gas have made available for centuries. Yet countries overseas have adapted long ago to alternate power sources. Not all of them are trouble free. France supplies three quarters of its need by atomic reactors. Yet neighboring Germany is moving to shut down its atomic plants because of the danger now that the world has seen Fukushima. Even the Philadelphia Eagles use wind turbines installed on the stadium’s roof. And Pope Francis’s ultra-modern audience hall in Vatican City, covered with panels, claims to be the reason why the Holy See is the nation that turns over to solar power the largest percentage of its territory. We might point that out to critics who charge us Catholics with being aloof from science.

It would be the subject of another column explaining why the church has been characterized as hostile to science. Until the fresh air of Vatican II (1962-65) we felt compelled to interpret all the Bible unduly literally. This was the result of four centuries of reacting to the Protestant Reformation, which canonized fundamentalist literalism. So if Genesis said God created the world in six days, we stood on our heads to justify that claim, even if it made us say that the “days” were eons, as scientific findings demonstrated.

Now that we are allowed to invoke the intention of the human author of Genesis, that he was using a parable and not a scientific affirmation, we read the creation accounts as parabolic symbols used by ancient Hebrew thinking to describe God’s shining handiwork.