Milarepa Center, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and an affiliate of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) located near Barnet, Vermont, plans to host a 500-kilowatt solar array on its rural property. The solar panels, which will be mounted on the ground, will provide clean energy to approximately 135 homes in the area. While the plans have just been approved by the Vermont Public Utility Commission, further hurdles are ahead, with construction planned for spring 2024.
Norwich Solar, a Vermont company that specializes in developing clean power technology, will install the system. The company has a history of working with businesses and citywide projects. This project will be a community solar array, creating electricity to offset the power use of small businesses and agricultural producers.
“We’re looking forward to moving this project forward in collaboration with Milarepa Center,” said Norwich Solar chief development officer Martha Staskus. “They’ve been an enthusiastic supporter from the start and we’re glad to be seen as a trusted partner.” (Solar Power World)
Milarepa Center, located off Route 5 in Barnet, Vermont, just across the border with New Hampshire and 93 kilometers south of the US border with Canada, sits on 112 hectares of woodland and hills. The center was founded in 1981 by students of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and follows the Gelug Tibetan Buddhist tradition, being named after the Tibetan adept, poet, and mystic Jetsun Milarepa (c. 1040–c. 1123).
The center offers private retreat spaces and an ongoing schedule of classes and programs. Past visiting teachers have included Geshe Ngawang Tenley and Venerable Robina Courtin.
Dawn Holtz, the director of the Milarepa Center, worked to bring in the solar array. She saw that a large south-facing field next to the center, crossed by high-power transmission lines, could be an ideal site for photovoltaic panels.
“As a donation-based non-profit, hosting the solar array will help the center with meeting its financial goals for the next 25 years, and we’ll continue to have open meadows/land for our use,” Holtz stated. “The center’s unanimous approval by its board members demonstrates the center’s strong commitment to sustainable operations and is an example of the Buddhist practice of bodhicitta because of the good will that will spread through renewable solar energy generation for the outside community.” (Solar Power World)
Buddhist leaders and communities have taken on a growing role in drawing awareness to and addressing the climate crisis in recent years. Yet there is still much work to be done, as BDG columnist John Harvey Negru, publisher at Sumeru Books, observed last year in a talk at the Buddhist Voices in the Climate Crisis conference of Buddhist action:
As humans and as Buddhist community leaders, we’ve got to do a much better job than just sharing memes on Facebook groups, showing up at protests with placards, or reenacting nostalgic tropes of Buddhism’s golden age. We need role models of positive examples of real-world best practices for now and tomorrow from Buddhists, regarding the environment, and this is really serious business.*
According to the United Nations, “climate change is the defining crisis of our time and is happening even more quickly than we feared.” The UN attributes the crisis to rising greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere through human activity, including “coal, oil, and gas production.” (United Nations)
A hopeful note is shared in the finding that “readily available technological solutions already exist for more than 70 per cent of today’s emissions. In many places, renewable energy is now the cheapest energy source and electric cars are poised to become mainstream.” (United Nations)
Norwich Solar moves forward with 500-kW project hosted by Tibetan Buddhist retreat center (Solar Power World)
The Buddhist Center Environmental Action Plan Toolkit (Sumeru Books)
The Climate Crisis – A Race We Can Win (United Nations)
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