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Rise in take-up of solar panels on churches

21 August 2015

SOLAR SYSTEMS

In the sun: panels on St Peter and St Paul, North Curry, Somerset

In the sun: panels on St Peter and St Paul, North Curry, Somerset

THE number of solar panels installed on churches is rising, as the Church of England renews its bid to tackle climate change, figures from Church Care, the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops’ Council, suggest.

Almost a quarter of all the renewable-energy panels on church buildings were installed in the past year, on 33 churches. In the previous decade, 137 solar panels had been installed on C of E churches, schools, and halls, and 239 more on clergy housing.

More parishes are expected to take on solar power, after the Archbishop of Canterbury signed the Lambeth Declaration earlier this year: it called on faith communities to recognise the need to switch to a low-carbon economy (News, 19 June).

Shrinking the Footprint, the green initiative set up in 2006, has helped hundreds of churches to have solar panels installed, as well as 62 alternative renewable-energy sources, including biomass, heat pumps, and one wind turbine.

The director of Shrinking the Footprint, David Shreeve, said that the Church was “committed to a carbon-reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050”.

Critics, however, complain that solar panels are an eyesore, reports from the solicitors Thomson Snell & Passmore suggest. Sue Lister, a property lawyer at the firm, said: “It is important to check the legal title, if there are restrictions on development or the need for rights of access over third-party land.”

The Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist, Old Trafford, in Manchester, the Revd John Hughes, says he sought to avoid tensions by setting up a co-operative, so that the whole community could support, and benefit from, the installation of solar panels on the church roof.

“Transparency of the investment, and a business model for those who don’t do church, but do care about climate change in our own parish, is important,” Mr Hughes said.

Installation of the first panel now generates 3000kWh of energy, and saves about £1700 each year.

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