An Abbey’s Path To Fiscal Salvation Through Solar Energy & Solar Chocolates


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Few weeks ago I came across an interesting piece of news regarding some solar activity up in MA. Upon further investigation, it was quite wonderful to find out how solar power is able to help preserve the simple life for the sisters at Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey and their fine Trappistine Quality Candy. This group of 44

Sisters of Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, MA (credit: Mount St. Mary's Abbey)

cloistered nuns have set records in leveraging green energy on their property while helping to reduce the town’s energy cost. At 300 Arnold St. in Wrentham, the monastery installed a 130-foot-tall wind turbine in the field beside its sheep pasture in 2009. They didn’t stop there, but continued on with installing more than 20,000 solar panels in a field on the Trappistine order’s property, harvesting electricity.

Trappistine Sisters at Mount Saint Mary's Abbey under the solar panels on their Wrentham fields, concerned about conservation of the environment and managed natural resources prudently. Sr Alice Chau , Sr. Christa-Maria, and Sr. Bonitas. These sisters taut the three "L's": Liturgy, Lectio Divina, and Labor. (credit: Mount St. Mary's Abbey)

Back in Nov. of 2012, Franklin Town Council entered a power purchase agreement with a Newton green energy firm planning to build a solar farm atop 11-acre parcel in Franklin owned by nuns of Mount St. Mary’s Abbey (a monastery of nuns in Wrentham overseen by the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance). Kearsarge Energy is leasing the land from the monastery until 2033, paying the order about $116,000 for the first year and an unspecified set amount every year afterward. In the meantime, the town collects net metering credits from the 12,000-panel farm to offset 10% of its energy cost for the next 20 years, saving about $40,000. “This allows us to purchase power below our current costs for the next 20 years as well as get real and personal property taxes for as long as the solar farm exists on the nuns’ property,” said Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting. After this first phase of a large renewable energy project, Kearsarge  constructs a bigger farm on the monastery’s property, costing about $5 million. So eventually the farm  expands to span 22 acres and include around 22,000 solar panels producing 6 MW (megawatt) of energy.

Father Kevin Hunt blesses the new solar farm at Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham on Dec. 7, 2013 (Credit: -Christopher S. Pineo)

Net metering allows the town to generate its own electricity and reduce the amount it has to purchase from National Grid, the majority energy provider in Wrentham. A meter records how much power the solar panels generate. When more electricity is generated than used, the town receives credits to be sold back to National Grid.

Nutting negotiated with Kearsarge for about a year and said the venture benefits every one involved, “The nuns get money, we get revenue, we save money on our energy bill…so it’s a win-win-win all around.”

The monastery fields in Wrentham worked as a dairy farm in the past. Today the sisters support themselves through the makings of fine chocolates and other confections at their  Trappistine Quality Candy factory on the monastery grounds.



Trappistine Quality Candy/Solar Chocolates (credit: Mount St. Mary's Abbey)

Trappistine Quality Candy/Solar Chocolates (credit: Mount. St. Mary's Abbey)



Consider Trappistine Quality Candy (where confections are made with Love & Prayers by The Nuns of Mount St. Mary's Abbey) during Valentine season. (credit: Mount St. Mary's Abbey)

Using geothermal energy to heat and cool their building and hosting both solar and wind energy on their property have been multi-faceted blessings. This provides the sisters the joy of living in obedience with their life of faith, helps them to offset their operating costs, and benefits their neighbors, the Town of Franklin. A community such as Mount St. Mary’s Abbey would be welcomed in any community! We should all look toward these sisters as example in their stewardship toward alternative/renewable energy projects! As Mother Maureen reminded us the connection of their order with green energy, in the excerpt from the Cistercian Constitutions:

Following the example of the Fathers of Citeaux, who sought an uncomplicated relationship with God of simplicity, the sisters’ lifestyle is to be plain and frugal…The sisters are to be concerned about conservation of the environment and to manage natural resources prudently….”

Simiar topic

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

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