STONE HARBOR - Parishioners at St. Mary's Episcopal Church on Third Avenue took 123 steps toward being a greener, more Earth-friendly parish Sunday in the form of a dedication ceremony for 123 solar panels that were installed in August and September.

The Rev. John Sosnowski said Monday that the project will result in parishioners being "better stewards" of the Earth.

"It's an investment in our future," Sosnowski said, adding that once the power-purchase agreement is completed between the church and 95th Street Power Associates LLC, the company that funded most of the project, the panels will become church property.

Sunday's dedication and blessing attracted about 95 people, Sosnowski said.

"I think it dovetails well with the rest of our mission," he said, adding that the parish operates a thrift store in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township as well.

Donald Powell, owner of Moorestown, Burlington County-based Powell Energy and Solar LLC, which installed the panels, said they will provide a great return to the church because the purchase agreement will finish in 10 years, but the panels will provide free energy for an additional 25 to 30 years before they need replacing.

Powell said St. Mary's is the third church on which he has installed solar panels. He said representatives from St. Mary's contacted him after he completed installations at another episcopal church in Medford Township, Burlington County.

Sosnowski said the panels cost $190,000 to purchase and install. Funding came both from 95th Street Power Associates and Sturdy Savings Bank.

Powell said any facility that requires energy to operate daily is an "ideal candidate" for solar panel installation.

"This is an excellent fit for them," Powell said, adding that the panels, once they are church property, should reduce the parish's electric bill to zero.

Sosnowski said solar panels were only one facet of the parish going green. New air conditioners were installed, and energy-efficient lightbulbs are being used to replace older bulbs, he said.

Additionally, Sosnowski said, the project has resulted in parishioners putting their own energy consumption under a microscope.

"It has spurred others to think about our (personal) situation," Sosnowski said. "It's inspired them to really think about that."

Contact Caitlin Dineen:

609-463-6710

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