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Indiana congregations put their faith in solar

A California church with solar panels on its roofSix Indiana houses of worship of various religions are putting their faith in solar and installing photovoltaics thanks to a $150,000 grant from the state. The houses of worship see the solar installations as a part of their faith’s calling to protect the environment, and the future, among other things.

“We’re very concerned about climate change as a matter of faith so we’re called to care for god’s creation for our neighbors near and far and for future generations,” said Madeline Hirschland a member of Congregation Beth Shalom. She is also Vice Chairwoman of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light’s (HIPL’s) board of directors. The faith-based umbrella organization counts among its members roughly 140 congregations including Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Protestants. “Reducing our use of fossil fuels as a matter is a calling and matter of faith,” she added.

The 6 congregations will each receive $25,000 from the grant include Congregation Beth Shalom, St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington and two churches in Indianapolis, according to The Herald-Times. “They are leveraging large investments by those congregations,” Hirschland said. “The arrays are different sizes depending on what each congregation could raise.”

The grants were made possible through the national Community Conservation Challenge grant, which is dispersed in Indiana by the Indiana Department of Energy's Office of Energy Development. “Congregations don’t qualify for the federal tax credit so the funds coming through the federal government, are coming through the state of Indiana to make it feasible,” Hirschland said. “That and the fact that the cost of solar panels have dropped so dramatically.”

At this point the contracts are being finalized, according to Hirschland. “They already had preliminary bids and their making the final decisions now….Some of them are pairing up and using the same contractors. I think there’s probably three contractors among the six congregations,” she said. The systems must be complete by May 15 and Hirschland anticipates that construction will start construction on the arrays soon.  

Hirschland said she thinks other houses of worship in Indiana may have already gone solar and that many are interested. “It’s a question of prices,” she said.

The HIPL group was created to help religious groups with “creation care” initiatives in Indiana as stewards of creation. It promotes energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and related sustainable practices.

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