Brookfield’s St. Joseph’s Church installs solar panels

BROOKFIELD—St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has joined several other churches across the state in going green.

The 475 new solar panels on the roof of St. Joseph’s School went live Thursday, providing energy for the church, rectory and parish center.

“We’ll be just about completely green, which is amazing to have a facility this size be solar-powered,” the Rev. George O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the church worked for 18 months on the $450,000 project, installing the solar panels over the summer. In addition, the buildings have state-of-the-art, low-energy heat and ventilation systems.

The Diocese of Bridgeport has urged churches across the state to go solar through the Connecticut Property Assessed Clean Energy program, or C-PACE, which helps building owners finance energy-efficient projects. Eversource and federal, state and town governments are involved in the program.

Immaculate High School in Danbury installed solar panels last year, while St. Andrew Academy in Bridgeport added them over the summer and St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown installed them in 2014.

Through C-PACE, the church will repay the $450,000 over the next 20 years. O’Neill said the church used to pay $52,000 a year for heat and electric for the three buildings, but with the panels will not need to worry about heat and electrical costs and will spend only $36,000 a year to pay off the project.

“The key to this is the energy savings should pay that note completely,” O’Neill said. “I won’t have to pay anything.”

Although the panels are on the school, the energy will only go to the church, rectory and parish center. The budget for those three buildings stays consistent, but the school’s budget could change, based on demographics, over the next 20 years, O’Neill said. If the project is successful, the church could add the school to the system, he said.

O’Neill said the buildings’ systems were outdated and needed to be replaced.

“In the beginning, I was looking more toward how could I upgrade these buildings, the HVAC of these buildings, at a low cost,” he said.

But he said he has grown more excited about the prospect of helping the environment at the same time.

“As I saw what was happening, I saw the incredible benefit of it,” he said. “If this is what they say it’s going to do this will be amazing.”