Let the Sun Shine – Temple’s New Solar Array

solar array on roof of WHC Temple

God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. — Genesis 1:4 

On December 22, Washington Hebrew began putting that light to good use, as we flipped the switch on the new solar array atop our Temple building on Macomb Street. The switch to solar delivers a yearly carbon offset of 348 metric tons of CO2, 383,324 pounds of coal burned, and the equivalent of 5,905 trees grown for ten years. 

This first solar energy system is good for the environment, offers a learning laboratory for our students and congregants, improves air quality in our city, and is an expression of our mission and values,” said Board Member and Chair of the Solar Committee Jeff Weiss.  

A big part of tikkun olam – repairing the world is achieved by going green. The effects of fossil fuels on the planet are well documented, and their danger is referenced in the Torah just a few chapters after we learn “the light was good.”  

“Now the Valley of Siddim was dotted with bitumen pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, in their flight, threw themselves into them, while the rest escaped to the hill country. The invaders [four Middle Eastern kings] seized all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their provisions, and went their way.” Genesis (14:10-11) 

Yonatan Neril, co-author of Eco Bible volume 1: An Ecological Commentary on Genesis of Exodus, writes, Once the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into the bitumen pits, they got trapped and lost all of their wickedly gained wealth.Then, and in our day, what wealth, comfort, and security we have gained at the expense of others, and the planet, is forever at risk of slipping away. (Times of Israel, Jan. 12, 2021, “What Does God Have to Do With Solar Energy”) 

One of our core values is to stand together in the face of life’s challenges,” said WHC Executive Director Steve Jacober. “There is no bigger challenge to life than climate change, so for us to play a part in slowing that change down is something we felt we had to do. 

WHC has been striving to implement solar options for many years, and by 2021, technology had improved significantly and made the project cost-effective. 

“This really wouldn’t have been possible without the incentives from the D.C. and federal governments,” according to WHC Director of Engineering Mohan Mistry. “With them, this project is a win-win for everyone.” Mistry adds that plans are in place for solar at JBSC as well, should the state of Maryland introduce its own incentive package. 

WHC partnered with DC-based New Columbia Solar (NCS) on the project, which estimates the 414.9 kW array will produce 45 % of the building’s needs, saving close to $50,000 per year on our electric bill, and total benefits of $1.5 million over the life of the project. 

Steve Stoupa, WHC Director of Finance, added, “None of this would have happened if not for the teamwork of the Solar Committee – Mark Director, Steven Jacober, Andrew Lazerow, Mohan Mistry, Richard Newman, Michael F.R. Rocks, Lew Weiner, and Jeff Weiss.”