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D.C. Church Enters Green Movement By Blessing Its Solar Panels

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By Mana Rabiee

One of the oldest Episcopal churches in Washington entered the modern-day green energy movement by blessing its new solar panels.

In Northwest D.C., the bells of the National Cathedral tolled nearby as worshipers gathered behind the St. Albans rectory for the blessing. Several stories above on the roof, the Reverend Jered Weber-Johnson swung his incense boat at 76 solar panels.

Joelle Novey watched from below. She's Director of the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, a group of more than 350 congregations in the D.C. area committed to a "religious response" to climate change. "These panels are a blessing because they generate power in harmony with nature," says Novey to the congregation. "It is literally electricity from above. Power from the Heavens."

Parish Rector Scott Benhase first came up with the idea. "We bless things. That's what we do," says Benhase. "In the Anglican tradition, we have a tendency to bless things that come from God's providence and God's grace, and we believe that these are a gift from God."

Jigar Shaah founded the solar services company SunEdison and was the main consultant on the project. He says the panels were provided by private investors. They sell the power to the church at a fixed rate, which makes a six percent rate of return after taxes.

"It's important that that's the case because if we're relying on people to simply donate these services you can imagine that it may not actually scale as fast." The church estimates the panels will save $20,000 over 20 years, money Rector Benhause says will be better served in mission work.

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