Pilot Renewable Energy Program in Five Parishes Good for Environment, Finances

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The Archdiocese of New York and five of its parishes—three on Staten Island and two in Yonkers—are working cooperatively with Con Edison Solutions on a renewable energy pilot program featuring rooftop solar panels that will provide about half the pilot parishes’ annual energy needs for the next two decades while reducing costs by approximately 25 percent.

The pilot program, involving the parishes of Blessed Sacrament, St. Clare and St. Patrick, all on Staten Island, as well as St. Ann and St. Anthony, both in Yonkers, was announced at a morning ceremony Oct. 30 at Blessed Sacrament Church, where solar panels on the church roof were clearly visible and others are affixed to the roof of Blessed Sacrament School next door.

Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara, the episcopal vicar of Staten Island and southern Manhattan, joined Msgr. Peter Finn, dean of Staten Island and administrator of Blessed Sacrament parish, at the ceremony officially launching the pilot program.

Also present were eighth grade students from Blessed Sacrament School.

Bishop O’Hara, in his remarks, said the pilot program with Con Edison Solutions, an energy services company that provides renewable energy, is the archdiocese’s “way of responding with strong, concrete actions” to the message advocated by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.

“It’s a great example for our students and our parishes,” the bishop said.

He added that he sees the pilot parishes as just the beginning; “5, 10, 15, 20. Let’s go right up the line,” said Bishop O’Hara, referring to the number of participating parishes.

Msgr. Finn, in an interview with CNY, said Blessed Sacrament has long been proactive in repairing and maintaining its facilities, a fact his parishioners appreciate. “They are so appreciative of the results of the improvements we’ve made,” he said.

Being one of the pilot parishes for the renewable energy project means “a significant savings in the budget in energy,” Msgr. Finn said.

The solar arrays at Blessed Sacrament are the largest of the five pilot parishes, which collectively will generate approximately 700,000 kilowatt hours of electricity through 1,717 solar panels.

Each of the five parishes has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Con Edison Solutions, a subsidiary of Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, which is part of the Consolidated Edison Inc. family of companies.

Martin Susz, director of energy management for the archdiocese, told CNY in an interview at the ceremony that the project involving the five parishes has taken shape over the past “two or three years.”

The suitability of the pilot parishes, Susz said, was determined by factors including buildings with southern exposure to the sun, and good roofs unobstructed by other buildings.

“The (pilot) parishes were very supportive and eager to take on the lead,” Susz said.

Formal approval for the project came from Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, the vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese, and William Whiston, chief financial officer.

The archdiocese chose Con Edison Solutions after considering more than 10 solar developers. Susz said the company’s expertise, combined with its proven track record and stability and an ability to see “the potential for us,” while starting on a smaller scale, all worked in Con Ed’s favor. The archdiocese and Con Ed Solutions have been working since January 2017 to finalize the pilot program.

Mark Noyes, president and CEO of Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, which includes Con Edison Solutions, said his company was “proud to partner with the Archdiocese of New York on this groundbreaking solar pilot program.”

“We applaud the archdiocese and its participating parishes for championing solar power and its resulting environmental and cost-savings benefits.”

Susz, in remarks at the ceremony, said the pilot solar power program is just one part of a multi-pronged approach his office is pursuing. Energy audits have been conducted at 323 buildings at 108 sites in the archdiocese. Understanding how energy is used has led to recommendations for improvements, he said.

One area of improvement has been LED lighting upgrades in 150 buildings at more than 70 parishes, Susz said. The resulting energy savings means the LED lighting pays for itself in a little more than a year, Susz said, and parishes are already reaping the financial benefits.

Michael Cusick, a member of the New York State Assembly, said he was doubly proud, both as a Staten Island resident and a graduate of Blessed Sacrament School, of the pioneering work the parish was doing.

“I’m happy I can pass by every day and see an example of how Staten Island is making this world a better place,” he said at the ceremony.

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