UK set for first solar-powered cathedral

25th August 2011

Bradford cathedral wip 1

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Bradford Cathedral is set to become the first cathedral in the UK to generate its own solar electricity when developers finish installing photovoltaic (PV) panels on its roof this week.

Work began putting up 42-panel, 10kW installation yesterday (24 August) after the parish received the go ahead from English Heritage and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England at the beginning of August.

The panels, which are costing £50,000, are expected to generate 7MWh of electricity each year, halving the cathedral’s energy bills and saving it £3,000 to £4,000 each year. The scheme also qualifies under the feed-in tariff, but canon Andrew Williams, who leads the cathedral’s Eco Group, maintains that economic gains were not the primary motivation for the project.

“While it would be naive of us to say that the financial benefits are not important, a key reason for doing this is to reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.
“The panels will save just over 3.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, contributing towards the Church of England’s target of cutting carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.”

The new panels will cover 70m² of the cathedral roof over the south aisle and the installation has been designed so it will not be visible from the ground, so as not to affect the building’s appearance.

The adoption of solar energy is the latest in a series of environmental improvements by the cathedral, which received the Eco-congregation Award last year for its efforts.

“We have been working hard over the past five years, not only to become more sustainable ourselves, but to encourage members of our congregation to work hard in their own homes and work places to do the same,” said Williams.

The cathedral changed all its light bulbs to energy efficient alternatives, introduced recycling and composting and installed efficient boilers, before it began looking into solar energy.

The project’s aim to inspire the local community was one of the reasons solar installation firm Sundog Energy wanted to get involved.

“The fact that the cathedral is working to lead its community, is something that really fits into our ethos,” said managing director Bill Roberts, who believes smaller solar installations have an important role to play in the future low-carbon energy mix.

“The advantage of solar PV is that everybody can make a difference to the carbon problem, it’s not just for big corporations and governments to save the world.”

He defends the recent changes to the feed-in tariff scheme, which saw subsidies for installations over 50kW scrapped by as much as 70%, as a sensible measure.

“The government is concentrating on microgeneration; making sure that individuals, small businesses and community groups get the benefits of tax payer subsidies, not just millionaires and multinationals,” he said.


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