Congregation Har HaShem, Boulder’s Reform Jewish congregation, has completed installation of 50 kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on its buildings. Combined with recent lighting upgrades, the congregation estimates the solar systems will meet at least 75% of its electricity needs. To mark the project’s completion, Har HaShem will hold a dedication event, open to the community, at 8:30 am on Wednesday, December 13.
“Judaism teaches that people have an obligation to protect the wonderful world that God has given us. Installing solar panels on the roof of our synagogue is another significant step we are taking to be good stewards, reduce pollution and scale down our carbon footprint,” said Rabbi Fred Greene.
Along with the building improvements, Har HaShem has launched efforts to educate congregants about Jewish environmental values and their implications for energy efficiency. “As a Jewish community, we are taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the synagogue, our congregational home,” said Jan Borstein, a member of Har HaShem’s Tikkun Olam (social justice) committee. “But we’re also offering a series of programs to teach congregants about ways they can improve the sustainability of their individual homes.”
The $135,000 solar PV project was made possible by a $40,000 grant from the City of Boulder and $15,000 from Boulder County’s Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE). Alan Halpern, Har HaShem’s Executive Director, said, “We are thrilled that Har Hashem received grants from the city and county to help offset the cost of installing solar panels on our buildings. Like most non-profits, our synagogue has many competing demands, boundless ambition, and limited resources. The grants made this solar project financially viable for our synagogue and helped us put our values into practice.”
To finance the remaining project costs, Har HaShem used an innovate arrangement that allows the project to take advantage of federal tax incentives. “As a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, Har HaShem is unable to directly use the federal investment tax credit that helps solar projects pencil in,” explained congregant Jeff Kodish, a member of the Har HaShem facilities committee. “We turned to a Fort Collins organization, the Atmosphere Conservancy, which put together a group of investors who can use the tax credits.” These investors will own the solar arrays and sell power to the synagogue for a period of six years, with the congregation having the option to purchase the PV system after that.
For its ongoing lighting improvements and other sustainability measures, the synagogue has received grants from PACE; Hazon, an organization dedicated to creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond; the Boulder County Jewish Community Foundation; and the Borstein Kant family. Xcel Energy also provided LED bulbs and rebates through its lighting incentives programs.
An essential part of Har HaShem’s environmental commitment is collaboration with and outreach to the local faith community. The congregation holds an annual Symposium on Spirituality and the Environment, with the upcoming interfaith event scheduled for April 8, 2018. Har HaShem is also participating in a newly formed GreenFaith Boulder Circle sponsored by the national interfaith environmental organization GreenFaith.
The December 13 solar PV dedication event coincides with the first day of Chanukah. “Chanukah is an appropriate time to think about conservation and renewable energy,” noted Rabbi Greene, “because during this holiday we celebrate the miracle of how a limited amount of sacred oil, that was only sufficient for a single day, burned for eight days.”
Congregation Har HaShem is an inclusive, welcoming community that inspires and supports lifelong Jewish journeys of learning, spirituality and Jewish practice. We are inspired by our tradition to care for one another, our community and our world.