St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Norwalk, Iowa is turning to solar power to save money and protect the earth. The 60kW-dc array, set to be installed this month, is expected to offset 37% of the congregation’s electricity and save them $2,000 each year. 

Though the process has taken time and effort to complete, the congregation knows they have done important work. St. John the Apostle will be the first parish in the Diocese of Des Moines to install solar panels on their roof.

“We’ve taken a lot of firsts,” said Terry Dvorak, a member of St. John and CEO of Red Lion Renewables, “but hopefully our work will make it easier for other congregations in the area looking to install solar.” Throughout the process Dvorak and others invested in the congregation’s installation have committed to a project that makes sense financially, aesthetically, and works for their facility.

The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines has long been a leader in acknowledging and addressing the impacts of climate change. Bishop Richard Pates signed our Religious Leaders Statement on Global Climate Change and has spoken at the last two press conferences releasing the annual statement to the public.

At the 2015 press conference, acknowledging Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Bishop Pates said we all must, “work at Mother Earth’s restoration.” Parishes throughout the Diocese have also been working to live into the Pope’s call to care for our common home.

The Guidelines for Construction and Renovation of Parish Facilities by the Diocesan Building Commission encourages parishes to, “plan for energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources of energy. While these methods may initially entail more expense, well-planned systems will more than pay for themselves over time, and reflect our commitment to be good stewards of God’s resources.” This guideline is another example of the Diocese of Des Moines’ commitment to stewardship of God’s good earth.

The environmental potential of St. John’s solar project illuminates their call to stewardship. According to Dvorak, the proposed system is equivalent to planting 36,000 trees and will avoid 3,225,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.

St. John of the Apostle is financing their solar project through a power purchase agreement (PPA). A PPA is a contract between a solar power company and a congregation in which the solar company installs and owns the solar system and the congregation agrees to buy the electricity from the company. In this agreement, a faith community pays for solar as a service, rather than paying the up-front costs of the solar panels. This allows the congregation to install solar at little to no cost, while still reaping the benefits of solar—saving money they can reinvest into their mission and reducing their carbon emissions!

For more information about St. John of the Apostle Catholic Church or their solar project, contact Terry at terry