Solar power, profit, and the Catholic Church

A solar solutions provider in New Jersey is partnering with a Catholic parish to help raise funds for church ministries (and help the planet) by converting parishioners to solar power.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
(Students at St. Benedict Catholic school in Holmdel, New Jersey, learned about solar power on Earth Day from 1st Light Energy marketing director Bill Amirault. (Image credit: 1st Light Energy)

It's a tough market for the solar industry; so one solar solutions provider has turned to divine intervention. 1st Light Energy has partnered with St. Benedict Catholic Church and school in Holmdel, N.J., to assist with the church's mission of social justice and filling the parish's coffers to fund its ministries.

Here's how it's going to work: 1st Light will present an educational seminar on energy conservation and solar power to parishioners early next month. A donation will be made to the church ministry of their liking if a parishioner installs a system on their home.

One mission is a solar power project for St. Benedict's. The church has already installed 506 PV panels behind its school and another 429 panels on its roof. It will provide a 30 percent reduction in energy costs, and eliminate costs over the next 15 years through the church's share of the financial benefits of the program.

"There is lowered gift giving due to the economy," said Barret Peck, 1st Light's vice president of sales and marketing. "St. Benedict's teaches social justice and being good to planet earth. It became an interesting proposition for them. They get access to funds through parishioners who want to go solar and do the environmentally right thing for themselves and for the church."

1st Light is seeking to extend its philanthropic business model to other local non-profits including the 4-H club, a synagogue, and volunteer fire departments. It is the first solar provider that I'm aware of that's made corporate social responsibility part of its business model.

Of course, the idea isn't anything new: Timberland is a frequent business school case study on the model. A volunteer program is woven into its corporate culture. More recently, a jeweler has begun to donate some of its profits to supporting injured veterans with a bracelet meant for soldier and their loved ones.

"We feel we're on the leading edge of a strong method of embracing solar power, an environmentally friendly way of protecting and hedging families against increasing electrical bill costs," Peck explained. "In the process of doing so, we're supporting organizations that have had a difficult time maintaining their donations income stream."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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