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Income could go through the roof by fixing solar panels

14 July 2010

by a staff reporter

CHURCHES could raise millions of pounds each year by installing solar panels, British Gas has estimated. Solar panels on Anglican churches in Britain could net more than £20 million a year, thanks to the Goverment’s incentive scheme of “feed-in” tariffs, which pay households and organisations for generating green electricity and selling it back to the national grid.

Generating their own electricity rather than paying an external supplier would save £2.8 million a year, the research from British Gas’s Green Streets programme estimates, with a further £17.3 million made through feed-in tariffs. As well as saving money, the savings on carbon emissions would also be significant — if all churches and religious buildings went solar, it would save up to 42,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of more than 600 transatlantic flights.

British Gas is already installing solar panels on religious buildings to help them cut their carbon footprint. The Vicar of St Silas’s, in Pentonville, London, the Revd Shaun Richards, was one of the first to complete his roof (Real Life, 28 May).

His Grade II listed church is the first in the diocese of London to have solar tiles that are visible from the road. The majority of the south-facing roof has been covered with specially manufactured PV tiles, designed to blend in with the surrounding Welsh slate. The £370,000 project was part-funded by national and local grants, and by the church’s own fund-raising.

Mr Richards said: “The project would have been a non-starter without the community’s vision. We had people sponsoring tiles, and people coming up to me in the street and offering money. . . . The result, I think, is aesthetically pleasing, as well as being obvious to people walking past that we are using solar technology.”

The panels are providing 47 per cent of the church’s energy needs, as well as feeding energy back into the grid. They have already saved nearly two tonnes of carbon, and are estimated to save the church between £4-5000 a year in energy costs.

The Government is reviewing a promise from the previous govern­ment to allow permitted develop­ment rights to homes and other premises wanting to install re­newable energies such as solar panels, which was intended to make planning easier.

The managing director of British Gas, Phil Bentley, said: “These potential savings are great news for the UK’s religious buildings and their congregations, and give them the opportunity to lead their communities in tackling climate change. Religious buildings are particularly well suited to solar power as they tend to have large, south-facing roofs which receive direct sunlight for the main part of the day.”

The Church of England is committed to a carbon reduction target of 42 per cent by 2020.

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