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GRAND TERRACE—A conglomerate of Catholic facilities in Grand Terrace affectionately known as “Holy Hill” are now running on solar power, thanks to a pair of solar arrays recently installed by the Diocese.

Bishop Alberto Rojas blessed the solar panels during a prayer service Oct. 28. He also joined other Catholic bishops and Church leaders in signing a Catholic Appeal for Climate Action letter to the Administration of President Joseph R. Biden.

“The reality of human-caused global warming has made us realize that our behaviors can alter the impact of the sun on our planet,” Bishop Rojas said during his opening prayer. “We rejoice today that this new solar array will reduce our carbon footprint, caring more affectionately for God’s good creation.”

The larger of the two solar arrays consists of 318 panels that each produces 325 watts of electricity. It powers St. Junipero Serra House of Formation and total electricity credits for nearby Benedict House and Blue Mountain House. The smaller array, consisting of 102, 325-watt panels, powers Christ the Redeemer Parish.

The $400,000 project, funded through discretionary monies of the Diocese, was the brainchild of Bishop Emeritus Gerald Barnes, who back in 2019 wanted to make a statement of commitment to ecological conversion outlined in Pope Francis’s 2015 Papal Encyclical Laudato Si.

“It was environmental,” said David Meier, Diocesan Director of Construction and Real Estate, of Bishop Barnes’ direction to move ahead with the project two years ago. “It was for Laudato Si.”

The solar panels will generate 220,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and have the environmental impact of removing 147 tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of taking 18 cars off the road or conserving over 15,000 gallons of gasoline.

The solar project will also have a financial benefit to the diocesan and parish buildings. After seven years, the project will have paid for itself in electricity cost savings. At the 25-year mark, the project will generate $1.6 million in savings.

In the spirit of newness in creation, the Solar Project Blessing also included a tree-planting on the grounds near the solar panels. Students from Notre Dame High School, Aquinas High School and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Riverside each undertook the planting of a tree. In addition, a youth from Christ the Redeemer parish proclaimed the First Reading during the prayer service.

Vice Chancellor John Andrews, a member of the Diocesan Laudato Si Committee, said in concluding remarks that it was no accident that young people were given a central role in the event. “You are going to lead us in this effort of environmental stewardship,” he said.

Bishop Rojas noted that the Solar Project reflects the Diocese’s commitment to the Laudato Si Action Platform Plan, a statewide effort of the California bishops that begins Nov. 14. It calls on dioceses to take concrete actions to protect the environment, as laid out in the 2018 Statement “God Calls Us to Care For Our Common Home.”

“As insignificant as we think our actions might be, it is what we do that makes the difference,” he said.