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Solar PV panels installed on 10thC Saxon Church

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 November 2010 at 8:39 am

Solar PV panels have just been installed in the Grade 1 listed, Saxon church in Wing, Buckinghamshire.

Inspired by seeing the Bishop of Lincoln switching on a solar PV installation on a Grade 1 Listed church in Sleaford on Songs of Praise, former church warden Martin Findlay thought "we could do that!".

He visited the church, got lots of information and then started from there. Needless to say, it was a long drawn out project with plenty of difficulties along the way. Martin Findlay outlines some of them below:

a] To persuade the PCC that it was a good idea by explaining the likely benefits and the possibility of raising the funds.

b] Getting the funds was a lot of hard work. Filling in government and lottery forms and endless contact with both local and national potential funders. Research through the internet paid dividends. Things were complicated by the fact that the scene is changing very rapidly and new schemes are being introduced all the time.

c] Planners are generally sympathetic to the climate change issues, but are then very good at finding problems. You have to find out what their likely objections are and then pick them off one by one. Do not get exasperated as they seem to be on the move in changing their traditionally entrenched attitudes.

d] For the future.The challenge with churches is to persuade the central offices of the various Diocese to explore the possibilities of supporting local parishes with financial schemes producing funds and using the feed-in tariffs to benefit both parties. These could be loan funds where the diocese benefits from revenue from feed-in tariffs and the parish from free electricity.

Lots of churches will be suitable for solar PV installations. As they all face east, they are likely to have south facing roofs. Martin has advice for others who want to put solar pv panels on their church: "Be prepared for a lot of hard work. Gather a bunch of local enthusiasts around to help you at an early stage. You must have a genuine attitude that this is the right example to be setting. The scheme cannot depend entirely on economic considerations. Remember there are a lot of people who want to help if you can get them out of the woodwork."

Wing's 9.9kWp installation was sized to benefit from the 36.1p feed-in tariff rate. It cost £50,000, or very roughly £800 per panel. This includes all the cost of ancillary equipment, labour, scaffolding etc spread across the number of panels. It is expected to produce around 8000 kWh per annum which will be mainly exported as the church is heated by gas at the moment.

However, the church has plans to go further, with the aim of becoming carbon neutral. They will look into the possibility of installing ground or air source heat pumps to be powered by the solar panels. Although the church has plenty of land, ground source may be a problem as most of it is the grave yard.


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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4 comments - read them below or add one

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 November 2010 at 2:14 pm

Hi Mark

Yes, you're right. I understand that the thing that swung it for the planners was that the panels aren't visible from the ground.

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gareth0898Comment left on: 24 November 2010 at 4:09 pm

Great idea! Might even stop people taking lead off the roof?

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3003derekComment left on: 24 November 2010 at 3:15 pm

Brilliant idea about churches in general.

That photo - of the guy on the phone in the middle of the job, typical.

"...Er, I was just checking, all the panels so far have been horizontal, this one is vertical, can it be exchanged?"!!

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Mark Brown

Mark BrownComment left on: 24 November 2010 at 10:52 am

By coincidence I had a call only yesterday from a lady in Great Missenden (also in Bucks - another coincidence) who wished to put PV on a church that was a listed building. The District Council did come up with a string of issues but I assured her that these could all be overcome with patience. However the real showstopper was the young gentleman from English Heritage whose attitude was more-or-less "over my dead body". He hates solar panels, thinks they are ugly and that is the end of the matter.

Several questions did arise. One of which was the colour of PV. The Church Roof is copper green and the lady wondered if within five years there might be a choice of PV colours? I doubted this but it was a really interesting question. I assumed that PV is more efficient the more black it was but, I guess, if you wish to engineer them in an alternative colour that could happen one day. It might help with the integration of such features on listed buildings with coloured roofs. I did spot a lovely brown coloured solar thermal tube system on the roof of a home with a matching brown tiled roof. There is certainly mileage in that idea.

Judging from the photo's of this specific Church (in the above YouGen article) the PV cannot be seen from the ground?

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