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MEA helps synagogue become one of the first solar congregations in Maryland

solar panels on a synagogue

The Adat Shalom synagogue in Bethesda, Maryland

The Adat Shalom synagogue in Bethesda, Maryland has always been the center of an ecologically-minded congregation. The community there posts on its Repairing the Earth Blog, works with Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s Congregation Award for excellence in energy efficiency.

In early June, 2011, Adat Shalom added to that list of achievements by installing 180 new solar panels, a project made possible by a $22,000 Commercial Clean Energygrant from the Maryland Energy Administration and the sale of Maryland Solar Renewable Energy Credits. The grant has helped the Reconstructionist congregation reduce the amount of energy it buys from the grid by 16%.

As Rabbi Fred Dobb explains, this helps the congregation fulfill its spiritual mission. “There is already tremendous pride within our congregation that we took this pioneering step and appreciation that we are actively practicing what we preach,” he said. “Putting up solar panels is a deeply religious act.”

The project was made possible by a power purchase agreement between the synagogue and Altus Power Management. Kenergy Solar, a company that specializes in helping customers buy solar power, brokered the deal. Under the agreement, Altus builds and owns the solar panels while the Synagogue agrees to buy the generated power for the next 20 years. Even though the project will cost more than $200,000, the Synagogue pays no upfront cost for construction, and buys the electricity for less than it would pay for power from the grid.

“Thanks to the favorable grant conditions and strengthened Solar Renewable Energy Credit market, Kenergy was able to structure a power purchase agreement and offer Adat Shalom energy at a substantially discounted rate,” said Kenergy spokesman Chris Cather.

The grant was administered through the Commercial Clean Energy Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to businesses, non-profits, and government entities who install solar photovoltaic, solar water heating, geothermal heat pump, and wind turbine systems. So far, the MEA has helped businesses save $126,000 per year with this program. This has reduced the State’s greenhouse gas emissions by 542 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 105 cars off the road.