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July 28, 2014

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With solar panels, Henderson synagogue reaches out to a higher power

Image

Steve Marcus

Solar panels are shown at a solar photovoltaic field at Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. The $1.6 million project is expected to meet about 75 percent of the temple’s power needs.

Ner Tamid Unveils Solar Field

Jacky Rosen, left, congregation president, and Rabbi Sanford Akselrad tear up an oversized NV Energy bill during a news conference to Launch slideshow »

It’s hard not to notice Congregation Ner Tamid’s newest environmental project.

Stretched across a gravel lot next to the temple is a football field’s length of metallic solar panels soaking in the sun. The panels are visible to any driver passing the temple on the 215 Beltway or Valle Verde Drive.

It’s the largest solar energy project for a nonprofit in Henderson, and the congregation’s message to passers-by is that the future is here.

“As people drive down the 215 and they see the solar array, first they’ll scratch their heads and wonder, 'What is it?'” Rabbi Sanford Akselrad said. “They’ll realize tomorrow’s technology is today. Hopefully, that will encourage other churches and synagogues to follow suit.”

The congregation unveiled its new Hamilton solar energy system on a cloudless Sunday afternoon less than one week before the Jewish environmental holiday Tu B’Shvat. Akselrad said the timing was no coincidence.

The solar energy system goes hand in hand with the holiday’s message of respecting the environment and tradition of planting trees. The panels are projected to power 75 percent of the building’s needs and have an environmental effect equal to planting 33,000 trees.

The approximately $1.6 million project started about 1 1/2 years ago with the congregation’s desire to go green. Congregant Matthew Weinberger, the director of business development for Hamilton Solar, suggested the temple look into solar energy.

The temple already took part in other environmental projects such as organic gardens and recycling programs, so Weinberger said a solar energy system was the next logical step.

“It was really because of the desire for the temple to be a part of the community, and it’s part of the Jewish faith,” Weinberger said. “It’s part of the core value of the temple to not be a burden on the site but rather how to give back.”

As a nonprofit, the temple received a $1.29 million NV Energy RenewableGenerations rebate to pay for a portion of it. It then raised an additional $277,000 from its congregants to cover the remaining bill.

Despite the one-time cost, the solar panels are expected to save the temple nearly $2 million over 25 years. Akselrad said the savings will be used for temple services.

“Like all nonprofits, all synagogues and churches, we’re always trying to find a way to make our dollars go as far as possible,” Akselrad said. “Our power bill can be upwards of ($10,000) or $11,000 per month. That’s a lot of money that can be used.”

Still, even more important than the savings are the panels' effects on the community and environment. Akselrad hopes that as people drive past the futuristic-looking panels, they’ll be reminded that sustainability technology is here.

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