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1.3 MW of solar capacity installed on churches and schools in Virginia

Church
Credit: Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

Seven Catholic communities in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, are nearing completion of solar projects with Catholic Energies this summer, representing a substantial injection of solar power across the Diocese’s churches and schools. The combined projects will generate approximately 1.6 million kW-hours of clean electricity annually and save the churches $2 million in energy operating costs during the term of their solar agreements.

The Diocesan projects are being developed with partner, Catholic Energies, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Catholic Climate Covenant, which helps guide the U.S. Church’s response on climate change and care for creation. Catholic Energies was able to obtain the total capital costs of the seven projects from a single investor source.

“Nearly $3 million in total installation capital costs were secured by Catholic Energies on behalf of the Diocese and its parishes,” said Dan Last, Catholic Energies Program Manager. “This is one of our largest collections of projects to date.”

The energy required to power U.S. buildings is responsible for a third of greenhouse gases in U.S., and the Richmond Diocese projects are expected to offset more than 45,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas over 25 years.

The Richmond Diocese solar projects are:

Church of St Therese, Chesapeake: 100kW

100 kW in size generating 129,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, which in total will offset about 82% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 2,900 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

Roanoke Catholic School, Roanoke, 61kW

61 kW in size generating 78,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, which will offset about 16% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 2,800 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, Richmond, 108kW

108 kW in size generating 132,500 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, in total offsets about 98% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 4,200 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

Diocese of Richmond Pastoral Center, Richmond, 245kW

245 kW in size generating 317,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, in total offsets about 84% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 11,000 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

Sacred Heart Church, Danville, 230 kW

230kW in size generating 267,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, which in total will offset about 89% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 7,800 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

St. Pius X Church, Norfolk, 316kW

316 kW in size generating 400,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, in total offsets about 71% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 9,500 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years

Church of the Holy Family, Virginia Beach, 253kW

253 kW in size generating 306,000 kW hours of clean electricity per year, plus a reduction in energy consumption from LED lighting, in total offsets about 87% of their annual historical energy requirement; estimated to reduce their carbon footprint by about 7,100 metric tons of CO2 over 25 years


Parishes have the option to pay upfront or finance their solar projects. However, a third-party financing model for nonprofits is popular in Virginia, especially after the recent passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which seeks for the state to move toward 100% renewable energy.

Through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA,) the churches pay no upfront costs for solar projects. Instead, Catholic Energies secures third-party investors who pay for the entire solar project. In return, the investor receives tax credits, plus regular payments from the church for the solar-generated power.

The price the Catholic institution pays for the solar power is generally a discounted rate compared to their current utility power rate, saving on operating costs. Additionally, the institution can purchase the solar panel system outright. Parishes can also complete LED lighting retrofits to save energy and costs though the PPA. Most of the Diocese of Richmond projects were completed through a PPA and are also completing LED retrofits.

The projects are part of a national effort by Catholic Energies to help parishes, schools and other facilities act on Catholic social teaching that calls for care of creation and protecting the most vulnerable.