April 18, 2024
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Solar Power Carport at Ahavas Achim Reduces Energy Costs

Can your shul, school or communal group add solar panels to its property and reap significant savings for the organization?

If the experience of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park is a guide, the answer is a firm “Yes!” But it’s not an easy process.

As Ahavas Achim’s immediate past president Josh Ostrin shared with The Jewish Link, he’d heard that there were New Jersey state subsidies available for putting up solar panels and that the shul could save serious money on its yearly energy costs. But his efforts to find the right contacts, to shepherd the shul through a multistage bureaucratic process, kept hitting dead ends.

In early summer 2021 he found a professional in the field of solar power who knew how to navigate the process. Around the same time, a member of the shul’s board of directors, Michael Beberman, asked Ostrin if the shul would consider putting up a solar carport over its parking lot and offered to coordinate the project. With the right contact in the field and a cable volunteer heading up the effort, all the pieces of the project came together in the next few months.

As Beberman tells The Jewish Link, the project started in April 2021 and the solar carport was completed before the chagim this year; the structure includes a weatherproof roof beneath the carport to allow it to shield shul functions held underneath in adverse conditions.

With the new solar panels on the carport and the shul’s roof, Ahavas Achim will be saving over 33% on its annual energy costs and should save $400,000 over the next 20 years.

Beberman and Ostrin were quick to thank the many professionals in the field of solar power who helped make this project possible—Matt Holland at Reflective Energy Solutions; Steven Daly of GeoScape Solar; Josh Mathie of Solar Mounts; Frank Luchese and Nick Williams of PSE&G; and Mike Gallagher, the Middlesex County fire marshal. They also offered their appreciation to Highland Park’s Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler and Code Enforcement Officer Scott Brescher for their active support of the project.

The Ahavas Achim solar carport project has already attracted inquiries from other Jewish communal organizations interested in starting the same project; Beberman said that six synagogues (including one in Philadelphia) and two yeshivot have reached out to ask for information on how to get started on similar projects.

“I’m so proud that our shul is serving as a shining example of how a Jewish communal organization can both embrace the possibilities of solar power and use this technology to save significant funds for the institution,” said Yossi Benedek, president of Congregation Ahavas Achim. “It was not a simple process to create the solar carport for our congregation, and I am very appreciative of the efforts of the previous president, Josh Ostrin, and our tireless volunteer project coordinator, Michael Beberman, in making this happen.”

“The governing body of Highland Park is very committed to encouraging activities that preserve our natural environment and are sustainable in the long run,” said Mittler. “Embracing solar power is a great example of a responsible environmental approach that is sustainable over time. I am so pleased to see Congregation Ahavas Achim serve as a role model in our town by using renewable energy, aiding our environment and saving money for the synagogue in the process. We hope that other organizations in our community will follow their lead.”

By Harry Glazer

 

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