NEW JERSEY: Medford parish 'goes solar'

July 7, 2010

St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Medford, New Jersey, recently blessed a new 50,000-watt solar-panel system on the roof of its building that will eventually generate between 75 and 80 percent of the electricity the parish needs.

The pattern of the panel array leaves the shape of a cross on the roof.

The idea of switching the church to solar power grew out of presentations made at the parish's 2008 annual meeting, according to an e-mail from St. Paul's rector, the Rev. Canon Donald J. Muller.

Two parishioners, Brad Denn and Don Powell, went on to form Hartford Power Associates as a for-profit corporation to fund, build a solar electrical system on St. Peter's roofs and supply St. Peter's with the resulting power, Muller explained. The parish signed a "power provider agreement" between St. Peter's and Hartford Power.

He estimated that that while the initial cost of power will be the same as that the parish paid to its local utility, PSG&E, future annual increases will be set at two percent. The panel array will also protect the church's roof and help insulate the building, Muller said.

Hartford Power will sell the solar installation to St. Peter's after it is paid for and when that happens the parish will be able to cut its electricity costs by about two-thirds and be able to sell the remaining solar renewable energy credits.

"We think that's the way to go," Muller told the Burlington County Times newspaper. "We can reduce our carbon footprint and be good stewards of God's creation. It's the first of many ways that we are trying to do that. We want to be more environmentally friendly as we move forward."

The dedication ceremony included Muller rising in a bucket truck to dedicate and bless the solar panels.