Oblate Shrine Goes Green

A Shrine known for snow is now being powered by the sun.

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sí (On Care for Our Common Home) calls us to develop a “loving awareness” of this home planet we share. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have a long commitment to ecological initiatives. With this in mind, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows recently had solar panels installed to make efficient use of its resources and reduce its carbon footprint.

The solar facility is located on about five acres behind the Shrine’s Outdoor Amphitheater. The site has more than 2,700 solar panels, each capable of generating 450 watts of electricity.

“We expect the solar panels to generate over two million kilowatt hours of clean, solar-generated electricity annually,” said Joe Pytlinski, Director of Finance for the U.S. Missionary Oblate Province. “Combined with new efficiency measures, this should offset about 45% of the 5.4 million-kilowatt hours used by the Oblates at the Shrine each year.”

The Missionary Oblates obtained the solar facility for the Shrine at no out-of-pocket cost. The Shrine provides a 25-year lease to the solar company which then pays for the materials, construction and eventual maintenance of the panels for the life of the contract.

The Shrine will purchase all the electricity generated at approximately half the going rate from the solar company. At the end of the 25 years, the Missionary Oblates can purchase the facility for continued use or remove it. The solar equipment is expected to have a useful life of 40 years.

In addition to saving money, the Missionary Oblates’ commitment to solar energy at the Shrine will also provide benefits to the environment. Over the life of the contract, the solar facility is expected to reduce the Missionary Oblates’ carbon footprint by nearly 45,000 tons of carbon monoxide.

The solar facility at the Shrine is just the latest effort by the Missionary Oblates to go green, here in the United States and around the world. Several Missionary Oblate parishes and rural ministries are powered by renewable energy. The Missionary Oblates’ headquarters in Rome is even powered by solar panels.

Being good stewards of the Earth is how the Missionary Oblates are fulfilling the goals of Pope Francis in his historic environmental based encyclical, Laudato Sí. The Missionary Oblates believe that one of the best ways to care for the world’s poor is to care for the poor’s home – planet Earth.