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Diocese of Ogdensburg goes solar; considers arrays throughout the north country

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OGDENSBURG - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg is going green.

Bishop Terry R. LaValley said people have a spiritual and moral obligation to be good stewards of the world in which we live and to help set that example has installed an array of solar panels in the backyard of his residence in Ogdensburg.

If using the solar panels turn out to be successful, church officials could install similar solar arrays at as many as one 100 churches and parishes throughout the Diocese stretching from Adams to Plattsburgh.

The panels at the bishop’s residence were recently installed by Triangle Electrical Systems, Inc., Plattsburgh, and will produce about 11,300 kilowatt hours of electricity, according to church officials.

“The major motivation for going green is to give witness to what can be done to create a more sustainable future that is consistent with God’s intention for a world that can be judged to be very good by present and future generations,” said Bishop LaValley in a prepared statement.

Church officials say the panels will reduce the electric bill to the bishop’s residence and shrink the building’s carbon footprint.

The project is expected to reduce the bishop’s electrical bill by approximately $1,500 per year and save approximately $37,307 in electrical costs over the warranted lifetime of the solar array.

“The solar panels are good economically, environmentally, and spiritually,” Bishop LaValley said.

While saving money is one consideration, church officials say it is not the primary reason the Diocese is experimenting with solar power. Being environmentally conscious, according to the church, is central to Catholic spirituality.

“As Catholics we should foster a deep respect for the sacredness of God’s creation, especially in light of increasing pollution of major resources,” Bishop LaValley said.

Installing solar panels at the bishop’s residence in Ogdensburg could be the beginning of a foray into solar power usage throughout the Diocese of Ogdensburg, according to Rev. Kevin J. O’Brien, who serves as the Diocese Moderator of the Curia.

The position oversees administrative duties at the Diocese.

“We are very open to doing it in other places,” Rev. O’Brien said. “It’s kind of a test at this point, to see the benefits. It’s something we are open to at churches and other buildings, hopefully around the Diocese.”

Rev. Paul Beyette, a retired priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, and the diocesan Faith and Ecology Group are credited for bringing the idea of installing solar panels to the bishop’s attention.

“They were very knowledgeable and passionate about alternate energy and convinced me that I could and should model sound environmental and spiritual leadership by going green,” Bishop LaValley said.

Church officials say Triangle Electric designed the project, obtained approval from National Grid and prepared a grant application to secure partial funding for the project from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The solar panel system at the bishop’s residence will allow the Diocese to benefit from all the electricity it produces. When there is more electricity produced by the solar panels than the house needs at any given time, the meter turns backwards as the electricity is put into the grid, which creates a credit from National Grid for that electricity, according to the Diocese.

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