The electric company doesn’t even bother to send a monthly bill anymore to Fr. Paul Nourie, O.M.I.
Father Paul is Pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Chula Vista, California. In March the parish began gathering its electricity from 260 solar panels installed on four roofs in the church complex.
“The last electric bill I paid was for $12,” said Fr. Paul. “Since it was so small the company decided they would just bill us once or twice a year instead of each month.”
Considering that past electric bills for the parish were running between $1,300 and $1,500, Most Precious Blood Parish is going “green” in more ways than one.
About two years ago Fr. Paul and his parishioners began looking at ways to reduce their electric costs. They examined many programs at both the state and federal levels. Eventually they
decided that to have the greatest impact, and the best financial reward in the long term, they would look into using solar power for the church complex.
A committee was formed of parishioners, including electricians, homeowners who use solar power and workers from solar companies in the San Diego area, to research alternative energy options. Committee members looked at various solar options and financing. The entire process, from the first planning meeting to the installation of the last panels, lasted about 18 months.
As with any large-scale construction project, a few headaches arose. Several permits had to be obtained because the church buildings included different classifications such as public access, school and private residence. The local Fire Marshall was
also concerned about how firefighters would cut through the roof in case of a fire.
Financing the project was also a major issue. Early estimates put the cost at over $400,000. Through various subsidies the price tag was eventually reduced to just over $200,000. The Diocese of San Diego agreed to a loan for the parish for the installation
of the panels.
“The diocese is watching to see if the project will be successful in meeting energy production estimates,” said Fr. Paul. “If so,
they will be more apt to encourage other parishes to explore solar.”
So far all indications are that the solar panels are performing at maximum efficiency. They provide about 97 percent of the electricity at the parish, which includes the church, two parish
halls, six classrooms, office space and the rectory.
The panels, which are expected to last 25 years, should pay for themselves in about eight years. Father Paul, with the professional assistance of organizations that chart the effectiveness of solar energy, estimates that the solar panels could save the parish more than $800,000 over the life of
the system.
For Fr. Paul and the parishioners at Most Precious Blood, the solar panel project is also about good stewardship – of the earth and of parish finances.
“This really has been a blessing in so many different ways for us,” said Fr. Paul.
To learn more about ways the Missionary Oblates are working to protect the environment both in the United States and around the world, visit the Oblate Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation
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