Catholic Multicultural Center installs solar panels Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Winifred Morgan, OP, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Jan. 08, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Solar panels were recently installed on the roof of the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison. (Contributed photo)

MADISON — Madison’s Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) held an open house recently to celebrate the installation of new solar panels.

The installation of solar panels represents the latest evidence of the center’s on-going commitment to God’s people and caring for God’s creation.

Pollution impacts society

Throughout the world, the adverse negative effects of environmental pollution most directly impact members of lower socio-economic classes and members of minority groups.

The CMC solar project will help create a cleaner, healthier environment benefiting everyone, but particularly those who live nearby.

The CMC’s solar panels also serve as a demonstration project, showing how such efforts can improve everyone’s well-being and finances and also how other non-profits and faith-based organizations can apply solar.

Saving money

While the October 2014 installation of solar panels make the entire community a healthier place, they also save money.

Electricity is a significant expense for the center. The solar panels, coupled with recently implemented energy efficiencies, have immediately reduced the CMC’s electricity usage by about 15 percent, translating into savings that can be spent instead on providing direct services to the center’s guests.

For example, averaged out over the life of the panels, energy cost savings from the solar panels equals nearly 10,000 meals annually.

Fulfilling Church teaching

As Laura Green, CMC grants and volunteer coordinator, said, the CMC staff wanted to do something to better fulfill the Church’s social teaching regarding care for God’s creation.

The staff, led by Director Andy Russell, thought the solar panels would be a great way to reflect that intention and to increase the center’s capacity to provide other services.

With the installation of solar panels, the CMC directly supports Pope Francis’ call to be “protectors of one another and of the environment.”

The solar panel installation represents over two and a half years of planning, considerable fund-raising efforts, and a great deal of community involvement.

Working with parishes

Tom Nelson, the center’s rural services coordinator, worked with dedicated parish volunteers and staff from the parish cluster of St. Thomas Aquinas in Madison, St. Bernard in Middleton, and St. Francis Xavier in Cross Plains.

Each parish sponsored a series of fund-raising events for this project beginning with a CMC Trivia Night. From the start, the fundraising emphasized family involvement and always featured game nights.

The efforts of the three parishes provided the majority of the funding for the project.

Fr. Bart Timmerman, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, recognized the connection between a healthy environment and the Church’s call to serve when he told the CMC staff, “I am grateful that our St. Thomas Aquinas Parish family could be a part of this because it is a great way to put our faith into action. Taking care of the poor and living out the social teachings of the Catholic Church is a high priority at our parish.”

Other project partners

In addition, the CMC received individual donations, grants from a private foundation, and a contribution from First Weber Realty.

In December of 2013, the center was also awarded a Wisconsin Focus on Energy grant. Wisconsin Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP) provides financial support to eligible business customer facilities with the most cost-effective renewable energy projects.

H & H Solar was another crucial project partner and installed the panels at cost. Adam Gusse, vice president of H & H’s Solar Division, said that for a variety of reasons, the cost of solar power has dropped 25 percent over the last five years. That price drop and the efficiency of the CMC’s innovative California-made Sun Power panels thus resemble “almost an endowment” as Sun Power’s smaller panels with their large capacity deliver converted solar energy 25 to 28 percent more efficiently than comparable systems.

Solar open house

Speakers at the recent solar open house combined information on what had been done at the CMC with information on energy-saving tips that guests could apply to see savings in their own households.

In addition to being treated to dinner and energy conservation door prizes, guests of all ages enjoyed interactive displays by H&H Solar, EnAct, MG&E, and a friendly competition of renewable energy Jeopardy.

H&H staff explained the technical aspects of the CMC project and pointed out its positive environmental impacts: the solar panels at the CMC are the equivalent of not burning nearly 40,000 gallons of gasoline, or 151 tons of coal, over the life of the panels.

While solar may not be an option for many, especially those served by the CMC, the night emphasized steps that anyone can take to conserve energy and save money. For instance, everyone can unplug electronic devices they are not using.

In his opening remarks to kick off the evening, Russell stated that thanks to generous donors, the CMC plans to continue to add solar and energy efficiency measures in order to better serve the community.

To learn more or to contribute to this project, contact the Catholic Multicultural Center at 608-661-3512 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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