Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ray Furse discusses solar panels and invertor

Ray Furse, partner with James LaPorta
of Litchfield Hills Solar
Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming, and thanks to the Sisters of Wisdom for inviting us to the commissioning of this 15.2 kilowatt solar electric system. Thanks especially to Sister Rosemarie Greco, who has been the driving force behind the project, and to the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (now called the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority) for supporting it.

Thanks also to the people who actually installed it: James LaPorta, my partner and project engineer, Ronnie Lizana, lead installer, and Mark Lenz, Chris Harrington and others from Lenz Electric, David Hampel in sales, and especially Patrick Grahan of the Wisdom House staff, who did much of the prep work, fortifying the barn structure and trenching. But mostly, thanks to all of you, the utility rate-payers of our state, for the .00444 cents per kilowatt hour you have paid to help sponsor it.

I’m sure most of you know this, but I’ll explain the system briefly: The panels are made up of wafers of silicon crystals, assembled in sheets, and mounted in frames. Photons from the sun, which are electrons in the form of light, bombard the panels, where they cause other electrons in the silicon to move, so current begins to flow. This is direct current, like from a battery, which is taken to inverters, located in the ground floor of the barn, that change it into the alternating current that the facility can use. That current travels via an underground conduit back to the utility room in the main building, where it joins with utility power to be used in all the buildings.

I have to confess that a “switch-throwing celebration” is not all that exciting an affair. In fact, we turned on the inverters when I started talking, but it actually takes five minutes or so for the system to test itself before it begins to produce electricity. When it does there won’t be any lights or bells or whistles. There are no moving parts and no skilled operator required; the system will simply wake up in the morning and put itself to sleep at night, quietly transforming energy from the sun into clean renewable electricity for the next three to four decades. It will produce well nearly $300,000 dollars worth of electricity over its warranted lifetime of 30 years.

To return to your .00444 cents per kilowatt-hour contribution: This is what we, Connecticut ratepayers, contribute in what is called a “Public Benefit Charge” on our electric bills, and is the ultimate funding source for the Clean Energy Fund and projects like this.

In these politically charged times, there is a big debate about what government can do and what private enterprise can do best. I would suggest that the generally strong state support of renewable energy in Connecticut has meshed well with private and entrepreneurial interests and is having a huge payoff.

The CCEF can provide you exact figures, but I can tell you from an installer’s point of view, interest in solar is strong, inquiries and installations have increased steadily over the past five years, and most of all, awareness of conservation and renewable energy possibilities have increased exponentially.

This has produced remarkable and measurable results. Installation cost has come down, from around $9 per watt five years ago to about $6 per watt today. When we started there were a handful of qualified solar installers in Connecticut; today there are over 60. And responding to the more attractive US market, foreign makers of solar panel manufacturers have moved in. MAGE, the German manufacturer of these modules, has now opened a plant in Dublin, GA, that employs 350 people. Next time, we hope Connecticut.

Finally a new Energy Bill, signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy July 1 of this year, promises sustained, long-term support of energy conservation and renewable energy programs in our state, with a view toward cleaning up our air, reducing our collective carbon footprint, weaning us from foreign energy sources, and reducing energy costs for rate-payers. So again, thank you all, or perhaps let’s all thank each other, for ensuring a bright future for solar in Connecticut.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Interview with Aida Mansoor

Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW
interviews Aida Mansoor
of the Muslim Coalition of CT

The Muslim Coalition promotes an accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims, educates the Muslim community, build alliances with Muslim and non-Muslim groups, establishes leadership training, develops social service programs and educates the community about legislation which impact civil liberties. A speakers bureau is also available.

On September 10th, the Coalition is having a "Mosque Open House" event, welcoming all to come and meet your Muslim neighbors.

For information, visit or

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sr. Rosemarie Greco interview on Wisdom House solar panels

Following is part on an interview with Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW on “Rich Answers” for radio WRCH-FM, 100.5. The program is a service of the Conference of Churches.

INTERVIEWER (I) – “Going Green” is a term that has been in our vocabulary for several years now. It refers to sustainable living and practices that are good for the environment. In one sense, “Going Green” is practical and wise because it looks to promote the health of all people and all of our planet.
One significant initiative in sustainable living and renewable energy is taking place at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center. Rosemarie, I understand that 80 solar photovoltaic panels have been installed on a roof at Wisdom House. How did this come about?

Rosemarie (R) – I began research on the possibility of solar panels at Wisdom House in 2008. But even before that, some of our programs focused on the environment, water, climate change creation spirituality and care of creation. We began taking small steps to reduce our carbon footprint and to operate the retreat center in more environmentally friendly ways.  Along with these came the hope of participating in renewable energy through solar panels but, in 2008, the cost was more than we could take on.

I – Cost is always a factor to be considered even when the idea is sought after.

R – Yes. Because of ‘cost’ I had to put the idea and the project on hold. There were grants and incentives available to home owners and commercial businesses but not for non-profit organizations such as Wisdom House.

I – Did anything change with this?

R – Last November, the Litchfield Energy Task Force sponsored a workshop on energy. I attended and browsed through the information tables. I lingered at the Solar Energy booth and learned from the representative of Litchfield Hills Solar that the State of CT, through its Clean Energy Fund (now named the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority), just announced grants for non-profit organizations. I got so excited! Meetings followed, feasibility studies were done, applications got written, and in April 2011, I received an email confirming a grant of $50,500 toward the solar photovoltaic installation of 80 panels.

I – How great that was! As you look at these panels now, what do you think?

R – I think how good it is that we are contributing to the health of the planet and its people and how we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. I see this as a spiritual commitment as well as a practical action. What we do is an expression of our values and our spirituality. Care of the environment created by God is now our responsibility.

For more information visit and click on “Learn More” at the solar panel photo on the home page.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Associate of Sisters of Mercy

Elaine Driscoll, Associate of the Sisters of Mercy, is interviewed by
Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW for "Rich Answers" on WRCH radio.

Elaine spoke about her joy in being an associate of the Sisters of Mercy and how the formation program added to her spiritual growth and participation in the mission of the Sisters. Each associate contributes to the mission of Mercy according to her own talents and time. The association with the sisters and with others creates a mission focus and community experience. There are more than 3,100 Mercy Associates throughout the Americas.  Their mission is to help people overcome obstacles that keep them from living full and dignified lives.

For information about the Associates of Mercy, visit: and click on 'Mercy Associates.'   Rich Answers is a service of the Conference of Churches.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Solar Panels Celebration

Opening remarks 8/11/11: Rosemarie Greco, DW

Welcome to Wisdom House, an interfaith retreat and conference center in the Litchfield countryside. Many years ago, the center was staffed by nuns of the congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom. Today, the center is staffed by a few sisters as well as by residents of our towns. They do an extraordinary service here.

Since 1949, when the Daughters of Wisdom settled on this land known as Spruce Brook Farm, the community of nuns practiced a way of life known as ‘simplicity.' It consisted of the three R's so familiar to us today.  This is not ‘reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic – rather, it is ‘Reuse, Recycle, Reduce!'

Today, over 60 years later, the three R's are back in style and we practice them in contemporary ways, which include solar panels and other forms of clean energy and recycling. We do this to reduce our carbon footprint, to reduce toxic emissions, and to participate in the clean energy initiatives of the State of Connecticut and our entire planet.

I want to publicly acknowledge those persons and organizations which gave exceptional support to this project: The State of Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, the Seherr-Thoss Foundation, the Daughters of Wisdom, Paula and Emma Desel, and many other Friends of Wisdom House.

Thank you for rejoicing with us at Wisdom House in this milestone and for sustainable living now and for the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 15, Feast of the Assumption of Mary

The Feast of the Assumption of Mary, as early as the tenth century, was a day reserved for the blessing of herbs and flowers, especially flowers that had a symbolic relation to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  People brought flowers and herbs to church on this day, marking the feast as a harvest festival of thanksgiving to God for the fruits of the earth.  The Assumption of Mary was commemorated as early as the 4th century.  (Source: Roman Ritual, 1964 edition)

The Mary Garden at Wisdom House, in this medieval tradition, is a place for reflection on some of the flowers named for Mary.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Swimming lessons

The Town of Litchfield, through the Park and Recreation Department, offered swimming lessons in the Wisdom House swimming pool to children for 6 weeks during the summer. The Director of the Park and Recreation Department, Brent Hawk, said, "The kids really improved by leaps and bounds this summer! They all enjoyed using the pool!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Labyrinth Interview with Marie Ford

Marie Ford is interviewed by Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW for radio WRCH / 100.5FM. The program, "Rich Answers," is a service of the Conference of Churches, Hartford, CT.

This interview considers the Labyrinth as a meditation garden. Marie says that the labyrinth is a symbol of life's journey. "I see the twists and turns as those parts of my life that took me in a direction I hadn't anticipated. The turning points could have been resisted but by trusting the turn and the new direction, the path took me to a place I never expected. By approaching these turns with a positive energy and trusting attitude, I found that life itself unfolded in a peaceful and positive manner."

The labyrinth at Wisdom House was featured in the April-May 2011 issue of Country and Abroad Magazine. The public is welcome to walk the labyrinth at Wisdom House.

Monday, August 1, 2011

50 Most Influential People of Litchfield County

The Litchfield Magazine (July-August 2011 issue) stated that "the Litchfield area is filled with people who use their time, talent and resources to improve this corner of paradise and to weave a certain charm into the fabric of Litchfield County." Listed with the "50 Most Influential People in Litchfield County 2011" were Sisters Jo-Ann Iannotti, OP and Rosemarie Greco, DW.  The magazine stated, "Together they are pillars of Wisdom House, Litchfield's country retreat and conference center, offering a place for meditation, prayer, and an exchange of ideas with some of the foremost thinkers of our time".  A full listing of  "the 50" can be found at this link.