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NORWALK, Iowa — St. John the Apostle Catholic Church recently had 206 solar panels installed by Red Lion Renewables on the roof of the church as a part of Pope Francis’ call to care for the earth.

“It is a positive response on a practical level to address the deleterious effects of climate change. Such a positive action is in accord with the leadership of Pope Francis,” Bishop Richard Pates said in a news release.

Terry Dvorak, with Red Lion Renewables, said the whole project took about two weeks to install.

“This is the first church in the Diocese of Des Moines to have solar panels on it and it has now paved the way for other churches to do a similar project,” Dvorak said.

Dvorak said the power these panels produce in a year is the equivalent of burning 1,000 tons of coal.

“These panels will save the church about $2,000 annually. That money we save can be spent on other church missions like Habitat for Humanity and Meals from the Heartland,” Dvorak said.

The church funded the project through a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, which means the church has a contract with Red Lion Renewables who install and maintain the system. The church pays the company a reduced rate for the power they use.

Dvorak said the solar panels power the whole church at times, but they still need some energy from MidAmerican.