MOUNT LEBANON (KDKA) — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is now the first church in Western Pennsylvania to install its own solar panels.

While they are not the first church to install solar panels, other churches have elected to switch to solar energy through cooperatives or third-party agreements, according to Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.

“On a nice day, our building is totally powered by the sun,” said Reverend Noah H. Evans. “This move is very much a response to what we promise in our baptism vows as Christians, to cherish the wondrous works of God and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation.”

The panels were installed in the late spring but held a blessing ceremony for the new panels Saturday when Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh officiated a service from the roof of the church.

“Going solar is a very significant and public declaration of this church moving towards a more sustainable building and being good stewards of the planet and of our financial resources,” said Stephen Sumpter, the chair of the church’s Sustainability Committee.

The panels were activated on March 27 and the first full month of solar usage saw the amount of purchased electricity reduced by nearly 70% compared to April 2018. According to the church, their electric bill at the time ranged from $1,000-$1,300 per month prior to the switch.

The total cost for planning and installation was $48,000 and was paid for through a campaign supported by members of the church.

This is also not the first move the church has made to reduce energy consumption. The church also recently switched from incandescent lighting to LED lighting, installed motion detectors to turn lights on an off and replacing old windows with new, energy-efficient windows.

“All religious traditions call us to care for the most vulnerable, and to care for our common home,” said Cricket Eccleston Hunter, Program Director for Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light. “We hope that congregations who cannot take on installing solar will still divest and reinvest at the outlet, choosing to purchase electricity generated by wind and solar – and that they will also consider making that commitment visible in some form to all who pass by.”