The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are dedicated to following Christ through the teachings of St. Benedict, a monk who lived 1500 years ago and who valued every object as a gift from God. St. Benedict taught respect for all things because everything is reflective of God. The environment is considered sacred in this same way and the Sisters have long been dedicated to it. Before installing solar electricity, the Sisters had already taken several important steps to conserve resources. Five years ago they installed solar to provide hot water for the laundry, and scarcely a year before they installed rainwater harvesting in a courtyard to water fruit trees. Besides that, their monastery was initially designed 73 years ago to incorporate a partial greywater system.
Even before getting their new solar energy system, the Sisters were actively trying to reduce the amount of electricity they used. One way to do this was by changing out all the light bulbs within the monastery to efficient fluorescent and LED lights 3 years ago. They received funding through TEP's subsidy for efficient lighting and worked at the project, "light bulb by light bulb." They had initially thought photovoltaic (PV) solar would be out of reach financially until Hank Krzysik, a Tucson architect and member of their building advisory committee told them about the different options available to non-profits.
As it turns out, solar was a great option for the Sisters. Through a lease program, they are able to pay the same amount each month they would normally spend for conventionally produced electricity on their new solar system. The nuns are now protected from escalating electricity costs and even have the option to purchase the system outright a few of years down the line. Sr. Joan says, "Why not use renewable energy if you can afford it? It's a no-brainer! Solar is more ancient than the earth: it's available and we should harvest it if it's possible."
The solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Benedictine Sanctuary is 153 kilowatts (kW) of installed solar power, and produces on average 22,300 kW hours each month. The system was designed to produce 85% of the total electrical needs of the Sanctuary, but as the Sisters work to reduce their energy usage and adopt more energy efficient appliances, it will produce even more of the energy they use.
The main ministry of the Sisters is prayer and fostering prayer among all who visit. In this light, the Benedictine Chapel is open to visitors all day, every day. The Sisters provide for themselves by running a gift shop, making liturgical vestments, publishing a magazine and making “Prayerfully Popped” pop corn which they sell at Tucson Padre Games, other community events and at their retail shop at Speedway and Wilmot.
The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration know the true meaning of green living - by harvesting water and growing their own food, by operating businesses that they believe in and by using the power of the sun to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels they are able to live sustainably and preserve God's creation.