EAST HANOVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Cemeteries and solar panels are two things that aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence.

But one New Jersey cemetery finds it necessary to make that connection.

Nearly 100,000 people are buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover, New Jersey. But each year more and more people are choosing this bright, airy mausoleum as their final resting place.

“The lighting and the music is beautiful,” Jeannie Harper of Towaco told CBS 2’s Elise Finch. “It’s a change from outside”

“I feel hopefulness and the sense of eternal life when I come in here,” Susan Allender of West Caldwell added.

This climate-controlled building is complete with an audio system and dramatic lighting. It sits on two acres of land, so it’s expensive to operate. Owned by the Archdiocese of Newark, the catholic cemetery got a green upgrade thanks to a partnership with a solar company. The company covered the $1.2 million dollar cost of the project, and then installed more than 1,000 solar panels on an unused part of the cemetery.

“On an annual basis it gives us about 57 percent of the power for this building,” Assistant Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries Joseph Verzi said.

Even on rainy days, these panels capture solar energy. Over a ten-year period they’re expected to help the cemetery save $265,000 on electric bills.

“Our bill here on a monthly basis was $4000,” Verzi explained. “After the solar panels, it would be about $1,700.”

“I think it was a great, innovative idea,”  Allender said.

With 35% of clients now requesting to be inhumed in the mausoleum, Gate of Heaven receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Energy efficiency became a problem, and these solar panels provided the solution.

The solar panels are part of a larger eco-friendly initiative at the Catholic Cemeteries, which also includes a new green burial procedure.

What do you make of this idea? Do you agree that it’s great and innovative? Share your thoughts and comments below…


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