In 2010 the sisters at Holy Wisdom Monastery received a LEED-platinum certification for their new monastery building—one of the ‘greenest’ buildings in the country. The solar photovoltaic system that was part of the new monastery building generated 8% of the energy needed to operate the building. The goal was to eventually add enough solar panels to produce 100% of the energy needs.
Fast forward to October, 2014 and the sisters are closer to this goal as Holy Wisdom Monastery becomes Madison Gas and Electric’s (MGE) largest solar customer with the addition of 463 solar panels estimated to produce 60% of the energy needed.
“In keeping with our care for the earth values, this opportunity helps us get closer to our ultimate goal of providing 100% of our energy needs from on-site renewable energy systems,” said Sister Mary David Walgenbach, OSB, prioress of Benedictine Women of Madison at Holy Wisdom Monastery. “Our Benedictine values call us to do what we can to conserve precious natural resources on this earth.”
H&H Electric installed the new system at Holy Wisdom Monastery and the solar planning services were donated by Hoffman Planning, Design, & Construction, Inc. The panels are attached to the roof of the monastery building and the retreat and conference center building, but are barely visible from the ground.
“The total solar capacity at 145.3 kW will provide approximately 60% of the monastery building’s energy use or approximately 45% of the retreat & guest house and monastery’s combined electricity use,” explains Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services at Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. The balance of the monastery’s electrical needs is renewable energy purchased from MGE.
Holy Wisdom Monastery received a grant of $46,896 from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program. In addition, the project was supported by funding from Holy Wisdom Monastery’s existing banking partner, Monona State Bank; and by a small group of renewable energy investors based in Madison. The sisters will be 100% owners after 15 years.
The sisters are also currently involved in restoring 53 acres of farm land into native prairie and oak savanna. This Wisdom Prairie Project is an addition to the almost 100 acres of native prairie previously restored on the monastery grounds. On Sunday, October 19, 2014 the Sisters gathered with Sunday Assembly members, friends and neighbors to bless the sacred land at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Calvin DeWitt, environmental spirituality expert, delivered the homily during the liturgy, followed by the ground blessing. Seeding of the new prairie lands will begin November 1, 2014.