Solar Program to roll out across the diocese this year

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Solar panels installed on one of the parish buildings at Our Lady of Hope, Blackwood. The Diocese of Camden will soon see solar panels appearing on several schools, parishes and cemeteries. Photo by Michael J. Walsh
Solar panels installed on one of the parish buildings at Our Lady of Hope, Blackwood. The Diocese of Camden will soon see solar panels appearing on several schools, parishes and cemeteries.
Photo by Michael J. Walsh

It has been one year since Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. In it he challenged all people to actively protect our planet, to accept that we are interconnected both to each other and our global home, and to realize that our local actions have worldwide effects.

With regard to power networks he noted, “we know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels — especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas — needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

The Holy Father likely would be pleased with the direction of the Diocese of Camden, which will soon see solar panels appearing on several schools, parishes and cemeteries.

This initiative, which has been in the planning stages for the past three years, took some time to get moving. The biggest issue? New Jersey has the second most solar installations in the country, behind only California, which makes for a long waiting list. Getting contractors, utility approvals and local permits in order is a laborious process according to Larry Reader, Executive Director of Temporal Services for the Diocese of Camden.

“The reason we’re moving to solar energy is simple, cost reduction and environmental benefits,” said Reader. Once the panels are up and running, the program is expected to see $3 million in utilities savings over the life of their use. Reader expects to see cost savings average around 25 percent in year one. The transition itself, from traditional electric to solar electric, will be at zero cost.

The panels themselves will be utilized either on rooftops, as car ports over parking lots, or as panel farm installations.

The diocese, and vendor Green Energy Construction and Consulting, are now in the final approvals process. Construction is expected to take about a month per site. All panels are expected to be installed by late-Summer/early-Fall, barring any unforeseen construction, utility or governmental approval issues.

A handful of installations in the diocese have been running for a few years, including Our Lady of Hope Parish and School in Blackwood. According to business manager John Colaianni the program has been great for their parish. “I think that solar is absolutely the best thing for parishes and schools, especially for what we do and our needs.”

At Our Lady of Hope Parish and School, the panels were placed on the parish center, the older of the two school buildings, and as car ports in the school’s parking lot.

“It has been a huge benefit to both sites. Our initial projections estimated a savings of $450,000 over the life of the solar program, we don’t know yet if we’ll hit that since electricity prices are very volatile, but we know for certain we’ve already seen substantial savings.”

He did warn that the planning and construction cycle can be difficult, so he recommended patience for those getting the solar installations. “Dealing with electricity companies is tough. The projects always get stalled. If you get a four-week timeline for approvals, expect eight. However, once you get through planning and construction, the system definitely works and works well.”

“One other thing to remember is that this is a long-term project. While you will see savings initially, they may seem small, but over time they really rack up. Don’t be short sighted on this. We are proof that solar is the way to go,” said Colaianni.

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Installation to begin soon at these sites

The following sites will see solar panel installation begin soon:

All Saints Cemetery (Newfield)

Calvary Cemetery (Cherry Hill)

Holy Angels (Woodbury)

Holy Angels / Holy Trinity School (Westville Grove)

Holy Child (Runnemede)

Infant Jesus (Woodbury Heights)

Our Lady of Guadalupe (Lindenwold)

Our Lady of Guadalupe / John Paul II School (Stratford)

Our Lady of Peace (Williamstown)

Saint Clare of Assisi (Paulsboro)

Saint Clare of Assisi (Swedesboro)

Saint Clare of Assisi (Gibbstown)

Saint Gabriel the Archangel (Carneys Point)

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (Northfield)

Saint John Neumann (North Cape May)

Saint John Neumann (Villas)

Saint Michael the Archangel (Clayton)

Saint Vincent de Paul (Mays Landing)

Holy Cross Cemetery (Mays Landing)

Saint Peter (Merchantville)

Holy Spirit High School (Absecon)