Rabbi Calls Temple’s Solar Array An ‘Actualization Of Our Values’

Temple Beth Elohim, a Wellesley, Mass.-based Reform congregation, has installed a 37 kW solar array atop the roof of its synagogue. Completed in partnership with solar provider Solect Energy and energy buying consortium PowerOptions, the project is a significant addition to the congregation’s efforts toward sustainability.

“Our Temple Beth Elohim community has, for a very long time, considered the importance of sustainability and environmental protection. Preserving our resources and being stewards and protectors of our earth are values that we find in our ancient Jewish texts,” explains Rabbi Rachel Saphire. “Installing solar panels at the temple is an actualization of our values, a way to model sustainability for our congregants, and a concrete effort to reduce our carbon footprint. We are proud to fulfill this sacred obligation and perform such an important mitzvah (commandment) of our tradition.”

As a nonprofit that is unable to benefit from renewable energy federal and state tax incentives, the Temple faced a number of options for financing and installing the solar array, according to Solect Energy. After comparing rooftop solar opportunities from different vendors, a team of congregants, staff and clergy at Temple Beth Elohim selected Solect’s small systems solar program with PowerOptions. Under the program, Solect installed and will own and operate the solar array and sell the power generated under a power purchase agreement (PPA) at a fixed rate for a period of 20 years.

However, completing the transaction was not as straightforward as in many other towns, Solect notes. Solar generation works differently under municipal utilities than it does in an investor-owned territory with utilities like Eversource and National Grid. Wellesley is one of about 40 towns in Massachusetts that purchase power from the electric utility owned by the municipality – in this case, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP). Solect says Massachusetts laws require the utility to be the reseller of power to its customers within the town boundaries, so making the array a reality required a PPA with the WMLP.

Under the agreement, the power generated from the array is purchased by the WMLP, which then sells it to the Temple.

“We worked to streamline the interconnection process with Solect, and the PPA proved instrumental for the Temple,” says Kevin Sullivan, assistant superintendent for the WMLP. “Bringing Temple Beth Elohim’s array online brought the WMLP total connected solar generation to 700 kW in the Town of Wellesley. We are proud to be a part of power generation from renewable alternatives.”

“We took a great deal of pride in completing this project for Temple Beth Elohim,” adds Alex Keally, senior vice president of business operations at Solect. “It required hard work and collaboration from a number of different parties to develop this innovative solution, and I’m thrilled we made it work for the congregation.”

“PowerOptions applauds the WMLP for its willingness to facilitate this project and Temple Beth Elohim for their commitment,” says PowerOptions CEO Cynthia A. Arcate. “Like so many other nonprofit and government institutions, the Temple saw the value of our program, which has helped mission-driven organizations from across the state tap into the benefits of solar power.”

Photo courtesy of Matthew Wasserman


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