Coventry to cash in as first solar cathedral

By staff writers
June 30, 2011

Coventry is set to become the first cathedral in Britain to become solar powered.

New plans to put solar panels on its roof mean it could generate over half a million pounds over the next 25 years.

"We are looking at putting a 50 kilowatt solar array on the roof and we hope it will significantly reduce our electricity bills,” said the Cathedral's executive director, Jane Woodward.

"It's a Grade-I listed building and we haven’t jumped all the hurdles yet but we are fortunate in Coventry because many cathedrals have quite steep pitched roofs behind shady parapets whereas ours is fairly flat, so we're hoping it will be possible,” she said.

The solar array, which will cost in the region of £100,000, will be installed by EOS Energy, the fastest growing solar installer in the UK.

The average system of this size would currently earn around £14,000 in a year, due largely to the Government's feed in tariffs. The figure is likely to be higher each year as tariffs increase in line with inflation. Along with savings on its own energy bills as fuel prices increase, and an annual inflation rate of three per cent, the return for the cathedral in 25 years could reach over £30,000 per year.

It could also save over 20 tonnes of carbon each year.

“We are working with the Cathedral and the Renewable Energy Technology Alliance (RETA),” said Lee Summers, director of EOS Energy. “We plan to install 178 photovoltaic panels, covering 200 square metres of the roof.”

“It’s great news that such a high status building as the Cathedral is installing solar because it brings such a large number of people into contact with the benefits [of] renewable energy,” he said.

“EOS Energy has been working with the Cathedral for some time on their ‘Solar roof club,’" said Mr Summers, “which is a project encouraging congregations across Coventry to install solar panels on domestic and church buildings.”

When the roof panels are in place, the Cathedral intends to include a digital display demonstrating to visitors how much energy is being generated.

Mrs Woodward said that Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury were both interested in the solar project and were concerned about "environmental stewardship and climate justice".

"It's not just about saving money on our energy bills, we are committed to the idea of renewable energy and climate protection,” she said.

"Climate change is affecting people who are in poverty the most.”

The bishops’ car fleet is amongst those things going green. The number of hybrid vehicles increased from 29 to 33 by the end of 2010, giving a fleet average of 130 g/km CO2 and a combined 57 mpg.

Some of the Church’s largest investments worth hundreds of millions of pounds however, still remain in oil and mining companies. According to its latest annual report these include: Royal Dutch Shell (89.9m) BP (64.7m) Rio Tinto (46m) BHP Billiton (38m) Anglo American (29.8m).

Its largest single property investment is in out of town shopping centres in the form of the Aberdeen Property UK Retail Parks Partnership.

The Church of England has investments worth £5.3 bn.

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