Solar Spirit

Guest Blog | March 6, 2014 | Energy Policy, Solar

This blog complements “40 Religious Groups Practicing Creation Care with Wind Turbines,” posted February 23.

Solar energy represents an opportunity to reduce one’s impact on the environment, while also potentially saving money. It makes sense then, that faith-based organizations, which are often strapped for cash and devoted to environmental stewardship, would see the benefit of incorporating solar systems at their places of worship. This is true across cultures and includes example’s from a wide range religious beliefs. This blog, written in conjunction with the season of Lent which started for most Christian faiths this week, provides 50 widely-varied examples of this “enlightening” reality playing out in the Southeast, as well as other parts of the country and world. Note that this list is by no means comprehensive – there are countless more faith-based groups that have pursued solar projects in the U.S. and abroad. Spoiler: the smallest independent city-state in the world is also the greenest thanks to solar!

1. Adat Shalom Synagogue (Bethesda, MD)


2. Al-Wilfaq Mosque (Amman, Jordan)

“Al-Wifaq is the first solar powered mosque in Jordan. 10 kW solar Photovoltaic system has been installed on the mosque's rooftop. The project was funded solely by one of the neighborhood's residents.” Credit: ETA Max

3. Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church (Denver, CO)

“We at Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church are celebrating in a new way what the Apostle Paul called, the ‘glory of the sun’, with over 70 solar panels now resting on the top of our roof.” Rev. Mark Meeks, Pastor, Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church. Credit: Colorado Interfaith Power & Light


4. Central Presbyterian Church (Atlanta, GA)

“Bede Campbell, founding chair of Central’s Care for Creation Committee, led the campaign to capture the sun’s rays to conserve energy, save money, and reduce Central’s carbon footprint.” Credit: Central Presbyterian Church publication, The Weekly


5. Cherokee Park United Church (St. Paul, MN)

“In 2012, Cherokee Park United Church of St. Paul, Minnesota, saw an opportunity to not only support their stewardship on this Earth but to support the solar industry in the State of Minnesota. Their 21 kW system might seem on the small side, but the panels are manufactured in their home state of Minnesota. Becoming only the second church in Minnesota to install solar power, their panels will end up generating 125% of the their energy needs.”


6. Christ Church Portola Valley (Portola Valley, CA)

“Christ Church, the Episcopal parish for the towns of Portola Valley and Woodside-celebrated the culmination of work to fund and install an array of 92 solar panels on the roof of its administrative building. The day of celebration included the blessing of the panels by Christ Church’s Rector.” Credit: Interfaith Power & Light


7. Church of Latter-day Saints (Farmington, UT)

“It’s about creating a place of worship that works in harmony with the environment,” said H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and responsible for the physical facilities of the Church. “For decades we have looked for innovative ways to use natural resources in our meetinghouses that reflect our commitment as wise stewards of God’s creations.” Credit: Mormon News Room


8. Church of the Resurrection (Delran, NJ)


9. Congregation Beth Shalom (Bloomington, IN)

“With our solar panels we choose life for future generations.” Credit: Beth Shalom


10. Congregation Ner Tamid (Las Vegas, NV)

‘“Like all nonprofits, all synagogues and churches, we’re always trying to find a way to make our dollars go as far as possible,” Rabbi Sanford Akselrad said. “Our power bill can be upwards of ($10,000) or $11,000 per month. That’s a lot of money that can be used.” Still, even more important than the savings are the panels' effects on the community and environment. Akselrad hopes that as people drive past the futuristic-looking panels, they’ll be reminded that sustainability technology is here.” Credit: Las Vegas Sun


11. Druid Hills United Methodist Church (Atlanta, GA)

“Reverend Rex Kaney braving the Druid Hills UMC Roof to check out their 2.35 kW array!” Credit: Georgia Interfaith Power & Light


12. Elon Community Church, United Church of Christ (Elon, NC)

“Solar panels on our roof will begin to demonstrate that the future need not be bleak, but that peace brings wholeness in all aspects of our lives. It’s a start, another step along the way, as we share the peace of being the people we are meant to be,” said Senior Pastor Randy Orwig.” Credit: Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy


13. Faith Lutheran Church (Inglewood, CA)


14. First Congregational United Church of Christ (Asheville, NC)

Reverend Joe Hoffman said: “I think as people of faith we are called to care for this place we live,” he said. “We've been called to take care of it, and we haven't been doing a great job of it. I hope we can be an example to other faith communities on how to break our dependence on oil and coal.” Credit: Asheville Citizen Times


15. First Parish Unitarian Church (Norwell, MA)

“I always thought it was a good idea. Everybody on the parish committee thought it was a good idea too,” said Bernie Gardner, a parishioner at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell. “Now it’s saving the church money.” Credit:


16. First Presbyterian Church of Elko (Elko, NV)

“God put Adam and Eve in the garden to tend it, not destroy it,” Pastor Pat Mecham explains. “We have a biblical obligation to take care of the environment.” Credit: Sierra Club


17. First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee (Tallahassee, FL)

“The solar panels were installed in February 2009 and by going to the church’s website one can see real-time data about the church’s solar voltaic generation. The church also committed to not only offset its remaining annual carbon emissions, but also to offset the previous year’s much higher carbon emissions. Church funds will be used to purchase supplies, and volunteers will install compact fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow showerheads and take other steps to make low income homes in its community more energy efficient.” Credit:


18. First Unitarian Church (Louisville, KY)

“In Kentucky, an estimated 93 percent of electricity is generated by coal. Installed in October 2013, the solar array is evidence of how this congregation chose to invest in the future by becoming a responsible member of the community, reducing our dependence on energy produced from fossil fuels. This action aligns with the core values of Unitarian Universalists and is a way to bring our faith into the world.” Credit: First Unitarian Church


19. Florida Avenue Baptist Church (Washington, DC)

“To be the first African-American church in the District to install a solar power system is a blessing that also comes with a responsibility.” Credit: Florida Avenue Baptist Church


20. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Decatur, GA)

“The church’s Green Team of the Green Ministry meets regularly to set goals and to provide resources for others. The solar array project began with an energy audit developed by the Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (GIPL) and this same service is also available to individual parishioners via the Green Team.” Credit: GIPL News and Holy Trinity Parishes


21. Joy Lutheran Church (Tulsa, OK)


22. Limestone Presbyterian Church (Pike Creek, DE)

“Protecting the environment is important to Limestone’s congregation, who have taken the words of Genesis 1:26 to heart and are being responsible stewards of the Earth, said Rev. Bruce Gillette, pastor at Limestone. “We have been blessed with a beautiful world and we are called to take care of it,” said Gillette.” Credit: Hockessin Community News


23. Mayflower United Church of Christ (Minneapolis, MN)

“Even as temperatures in Minneapolis reach historic lows this week, the solar panels on top of Mayflower Church United Church of Christ continue to generate electricity.” Credit: United Church of Christ


24. Mosque Foundation (Bridgeview, IL)

“The Bridgeview mosque earned a distinction as the nation’s first mosque to go solar when leaders installed solar panels on the roof to help heat the building’s water. Islam teaches us to conserve and protect God’s wonderful creation,


25. Mosque in Buyukeceli (Turkey)

“When a nuclear plant was proposed for the Turkish village of Buyukeceli, the residents decided to demonstrate their resistance not through protest and petitions but by highlighting the viability of renewable energy.” Credit : Green Prophet


26. Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey (Franklin, MA)

“We want to keep our land,” said Sister Alice. “Solar is very, in a way, profitable, and at the same time it is in the path of nature. And we don’t need to sell our land or give people the right to develop the land. We don’t want industry or to bring in many people here.” Credit: Boston Globe


27. Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC)

Bob Thomason, spokesman for the Church’s Earthkeepers group commented, “Our solar PV system is a symbol of our church’s commitment to caring for the environment. It is the most visible piece of a larger, ongoing church program of energy awareness and efficiency improvements. We are determined to do our part by conserving energy and getting as much energy as possible from sustainable, less destructive sources.” Credit: Argand Energy


28. NorthCreek Church (Walnut Creek, CA)

“The church decided to install panels for a few reasons, including giving people shaded parking, saving natural resources and a higher reason.” Credit: Sun Light & Power


29. North Presbyterian Church (Williamsville, NY)

“North Church is a “solar church.” In 2011 church members looked at using solar power to reduce electricity bills and to keep up its mission of good environmental stewardship.” Credit: North Presbyterian Church


30. Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Sandy Springs, GA)

“In January 2009, the church installed 20 solar panels on the south roof of its sanctuary, in its effort to completely remove itself from the coal power grid. According to Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL), the congregation is the first in Georgia to have installed solar panels on its roof.” Credit: Atlanta Progressive News and Youtube


31. Our Mother of Sorrows Parish (Tucson, AZ)

Anne Marie King, the Our Mother of Sorrows Parish business manager said that they ultimately chose to install solar “to become better, more faithful stewards of God’s creation and to set an example and be a leader for other parishes in the Diocese of Tucson in promoting solar energy.” Credit: Technicians for Sustainability, LLC


32. Parish of St. Theresa (Little Egg Harbor, NJ)


33. Poh Ern Shih Buddhist Temple (Singapore)

“With over 2,000 followers, Poh Ern Shih Temple in Singapore took advantage of their abundant solar resource and became the first religious institution in the country to incorporate eco-friendly measures into the design. Poh Ern Shih Temple not only uses solar PV to meet 25% of their electricity needs, but the Buddhist temple also uses solar power to provide hot water for the building.” Credit: Mosaic


34. Rock Point School and Diocese of Vermont (Burlington, VT)

“Bishop Thomas Ely, dedicated the new solar installation on the Diocese of Vermont’s property at Rock Point in Burlington, to the glory of God and “in thanksgiving for the goodness of all creation.” Credit: Episcopal News Service


35. Sacred Heart Church & School (Prescott, AZ)

“One of the oldest churches in the Diocese of Phoenix, the Sacred Heart Church and School, installed two PV solar systems totaling 160 kW in Prescott, Arizona. This system is projected to help the church save as much as $40,000 annually on utilities. The 100 kW system will help power the church’s 2000-seat parish.” Credit: Mosaic


36. South Church (Andover, MA)

“When we sort our trash, wash dishes instead of throwing away paper and plastic, organize carpools for church events, attend Green Team workshops and retreats, turn off lights and dial back thermostats as we leave a room, study the “Green Bible” in Faith Forum, or put solar panels on our roof, we show our care for God’s creation.” Credit: South Church


37. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church (Washington, DC)

According to Rev. Scott Behnhase, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC decided to install their solar panels because they recognized that there is “a morel dimension to the energy choices we make.” Credit: Ecojustice


38. St. David’s Episcopal Church (Austin, TX)

“The resources that this will free up financially will enable us to further our work with our homeless population in Downtown Austin with different social service agencies that we support in our outreach programs,” said David Boyd, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church.” Credit:


39. St. Denys Church (Sleaford, United Kingdom)

“The panels have certainly proved a valuable addition to the parish church. First, they speak of our mission as stewards of God's creation, caring for one another and the planet we have been given out of His providence; secondly, they have proved a successful mix of medieval building and 21st century technology. They cannot be seen from ground level and the specially-designed attaching clamps could be removed within a matter of hours, so you would not know they had been there; thirdly, they provide a useful income stream which more than pays for our own electricity needs.” (Reverend Canon John Patrick). Credit:


40. St. Francis of the Foothills United Methodist Church (Tucson, AZ)

“The use of solar panels to provide nearly all of the church’s electrical needs demonstrates true care of God’s creation, not to mention a great financial savings for years to come!” Bishop Minerva G. Carcano.” Credit: Technicians for Sustainability


41. St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church (Athens, GA)

“Mechanisms that heat or cool are the most energy-consuming,” said Andrew Lane, Chairman of the Green Guild/Creation Keepers at St. Gregory the Great, “so finding ways to use the solar panels and the electricity they create to help heat and cool water or a refrigerator and other appliances would be good for the environment. (The sun) really is a gift, and if we have the ability and the finances to capture and harness it, it can be beneficial for many reasons.” Credit: Online Athens


42. St. Mary’s Parish (Colts Neck, NJ)


43. St. Peters Episcopal Church (Medford, NJ)

Father Don Muller said “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.” Credit: South Jersey Local News


44. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (Greenport, NY)

“Following the destruction of Superstorm Sandy, many communities in the Northeast needed rebuilding. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport, New York, needed to replace their roof following the storm; however, they decided to do so with the power of the Sun. The church installed 100 solar panels on their church, making it 100% run by solar power.” Credit: Mosaic


45. Temple Beth El (Stamford, CT)


46. Temple Emmanuel (Greensboro, NC)

Gary Silverstein, Solar Project Chair, explained that “Our enthusiasm is generated from our commitment as members of the Temple Emanuel, our Greensboro community, our nation and our planet. All this we understand, respect and celebrate through our covenant and dedication as Jews and as shred in habitants of God’s Green Earth.” Credit: Temple Emanuel


47. Temple Sinai (Glendale, CA)

“There’s a clear public benefit in getting us off coal that kills thousands of people every year,” says Jan Freed, whom championed the solar project at Temple Sinai. “Our business as a religious community, if there is one, is to do what’s right.” Credit: Sierra Club


48. Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universality Church (Knoxville, TN)

Reverend Chris Buice and member Gene Burr power up solar panels at TVUUC in Knoxville. “The array, consisting of 117 solar panels and covering more than 3,100 sq. feet of roof space, provides enough electricity to power three average Tennessee homees. The system is owned by FLS Energy, which, through third-party investors, monetizes a 30% federal tax credit for the system.” Credit: City of Knoxville


49. Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill (Cherry Hill, NJ)


50. Vatican City (Rome, Italy)

“Not only is solar becoming popular among smaller churches, but it is even utilized by the heart of the Catholic Church. Atop the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall are over 2,400 solar PV panels, creating enough energy to power all the heating, cooling, and electricity needs for the 6,300 seat building. This will also help the Vatican reach its commitment to incorporate 20% renewable energy resources for energy needs by 2020.” Credit: Mosaic



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