As energy costs rise, the church must contend with energy costs. Some congregations are looking at ways to conserve, others are changing the fuel they use, and the General Theological Seminary is heating and cooling the close with geothermal technology.
When a historic seminary in the heart of Manhattan went searching for a way to cut its energy costs in an environmentally friendly way, it didn’t turn to the heavens for sun or wind power but sought salvation in an unlikely direction for a religious institution. It looked underground.
Tapping the energy stored in the Earth, the General Theological Seminary, the oldest Episcopal seminary in America, is in the midst of a multiyear effort to construct the largest geothermal project on the East Coast. When completed, 20 wells reaching depths of at least 1,500 feet will supply water to heat and cool the seminary’s 275,000 square feet of space.
The institution—built on land donated by Clement Clark Moore, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas”—is hardly alone in seeing the potential for geothermal power. From large power plants in the West that produce electricity to a hospital in the Chicago suburb of Elgin to homeowners looking to save money on their utility bills, geothermal power is experiencing steady but largely unnoticed growth in America.
The Boston Herald ran a story outlining the ways in which congregations of several traditions are dealing with the high cost of fuel in New England where the main source of heating energy is heating oil. The description of the choices faces St. Stephen’s Church in Lynn, MA, shows that energy costs are not just the church budget issues but the affect congregation’s work in the community.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lynn: During the first six months of the year, the church spent $32,996 of its $47,250 fuel budget on heating oil, despite creating heating zones and purchasing a high-efficiency boiler several years ago, church officials said. The church, which rents to several community organizations and provides space to 12-step groups, is considering a plan to move all meetings into a parish house that is easier to heat, said the Rev. Jane Gould. “Where do community groups go to have meetings if church space can no longer be free? We used to be able to say, ‘Sure you can use our space.’ Now we really have to think about it,” she said. Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light has helped improve its energy efficiency.
Read: chicagotribune.com: Geothermal power tapping its potential
And: Boston Herald: Churches eye new solutions
HT to EpiScope which highlights two other stories:
Worcester Telegram, MA
Churches looking for ways to ease heating Read it
Salisbury Post – Salisbury, NC
Catawba’s environmental stewardship conference makes impact on many Read it