Pope Francis inspires Iowa church to use solar energy

Associated Press


Church leaders in central Iowa are turning to solar power for their buildings in an effort to aid the environment and save money.

The St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Norwalk has more than 200 solar panels that the Rev. John Ludwig said saves them about $2,000 a year, The Des Moines Register reported .

Church member Terry Dvorak founded Red Lion Renewables, a solar development firm, after seeing heavy pollution in China in 2010. Dvorak gathered investors who contributed about $200,000 to purchase the panels.

The company then sells the energy generated to the church at a low rate. The array is estimated to produce enough energy to power 10 homes, Dvorak said.

“Our kids deserve to have clean air and sunshine,” Dvorak said, “and so does the rest of the world.”

Bishop Robert Pates said Pope Francis’ campaign combating climate change inspired the move toward solar. The pope called for changes in political action and personal behaviors to better care for the environment.

“These situations have caused sister Earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course,” Francis wrote. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

Leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines said the church is the first in a larger-scale solar energy initiative.

“It’s exciting to me because I feel like they’re sort of walking the walk,” said the Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, executive director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, a religious group aimed at responding to global warming. “They’re not just saying ‘Isn’t this great?’ They’re really advocating for congregations to do something.”

Leaders from various faith traditions across the state are pushing toward becoming more energy-efficient, Guy said.

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