On October 16, 2011, Temple Emanuel officially dedicated its new rooftop 5kW photovoltaic system. The solar panels are a project of the temple’s Teva Committee, which guides the congregation and facility toward becoming more environmentally sustainable.
This is Teva’s most ambitious endeavor to date. Other accomplishments include: implementing a comprehensive recycling program, a Mitzvah Garden which provides fresh vegetables to local food banks, a composting system that turns their kitchen scraps into fertilizer for the Mitzvah Garden, a campaign to reduce the temple’s reliance on disposable products in favor of reusable options, educational and spiritual programming.
TE’s 24 panels generate electricity which is sold to Duke Power through NC GreenPower, offsetting the facility’s utility expenses by approximately $1,000 each year. More importantly, this electricity will prevent an estimated 8,000 pounds of coal from being removed from mountaintops and save approximately 14,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses from being released into the atmosphere annually.
The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) inspired the project. According to project chair,Gary Silverstein, “Our enthusiasm is generated from our commitment as members of Temple Emanuel, our Greensboro community, our nation and our planet. All this we understand, respect and celebrate through our covenant and dedication as Jews, and as shared inhabitants of God’s Green Earth.” This project, in the works for over two years and unanimously approved by the temple Board of Trustees, was funded by nearly 60 of TE’s families.
With donations ranging from $10 to $3000, congregants across all income levels are able to share in the sense of ownership and Earth stewardship. NC law allows Renewable Energy Tax credits to be passed on to the individual donors, which added a supplemental motivation and benefit to the fundraising efforts. Temple Emanuel is one of only three congregations in NC, and the first in the Piedmont Triad to have a solar PV system in operation. The Teva Committee is reaching out to other houses of worship in the area to serve as a resource and to inspire similar projects.
TE’s array may only make a small environmental dent, but many congregations achieving the same thing can make a substantial difference. A monitor screen has been mounted inside the temple displaying the panels’ electric output in real time. This not only identifies that the system is operating to expected levels but also serves as a learning tool for the Religious Education program, tying together the values of the Jewish faith with the real world practices of its congregation. This Temple Emanuel model demonstrates that a robust, positive and forward-thinking congregation can bring together financial and environmental sustainability, establish an enduring legacy for our children and our planet.