TECHNOLOGY

Citing Climate Change, Church of England Retrofits 1,000-Year-Old Church With Solar Panels

Gloucester Cathedral is now the oldest building in the world to “go green”

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BY Kate L. Harrison - 01 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

While some solar entrepreneurs are bracing for the impact of Trump's presidency, the demand for solar in the US (and abroad) continues to grow. This year, Tesla is slated to start selling solar roofs, making it much easier for the homes of the future to integrate solar directly into their core design. But what about older constructions? Or even ancient constructions? Gloucester Cathedral is proving that retro-fitting old buildings for solar is both possible and sensible. The Cathedral, located in Gloucester, England, is approximately 1,000 years old, making it the oldest building in the world to "go green."

In 2009, the Church of England drafted an "80% plan." Church leaders presented the plan to the global faith community and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference held in December 2009. The Church of England's "Seven-Year Plan on Climate Change and the Environment" addresses - "in faith, practice and mission" - the issue of climate change. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions for their entire organization by 80% by 2050 -- with an interim goal of a 42% reduction by 2020.

"The plan puts education and young people at the heart of the Church's climate change strategy. All 4,700 church schools nationwide aim to achieve 'eco-school' status, by implementing the Government's policy on sustainable school development." Gloucester Cathedral's retrofit is moving them closer to this goal.

The Cathedral is famous for hosting the Coronation of King Henry III, and for being the final resting place of King Edward II, as well as providing a location for three of the Harry Potter films. The Grade I listed building is the oldest of its type in the world to have solar PV installed, making it a perfect symbol of an ancient institution embracing the future.

Following a highly competitive bidding process, Gloucestershire-based Mypower won this historic contract. The first of 150 solar panels were laid by Reverend Canon Celia Thomson earlier this month. She noted: "The installation of solar panels on this remarkable building is an historic moment. We are thrilled that our vision to become a greener Cathedral is being fulfilled, and proud to make a valuable contribution to the Church of England's Shrinking the Footprint campaign."

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Cathedral was able to undertake the development project including the installation of solar PV. The 38kw solar array will reduce the Cathedral's energy costs by 25%. The project will also save The Cathedral 190,000 (about $250,000) over the next twenty-five years in fuel costs.

The fact that the structure was so old presented a number of challenges. Mypower's managing partner Ben Harrison explained: "We put a lot of time, effort and passion into this bid to provide the right design in order to achieve a beneficial output at the right price, whilst being totally sympathetic to this historic building." The panels sit 30 metres above the ground, making them virtually invisible from the surrounding area. In addition, no holes were made nor were any fittings attached to the roof. A specially-designed non-penetrating fixing system has the panels cleverly resting on top of the lead roof above the great Nave.

The REC BLK2 solar panels were chosen for their outstanding reliability and performance, as well as their attractive appearance. The dark blue panel color closely matches the color of the ancient lead roof; even when seen from above, the panels are difficult to see, protecting the ancient beauty of the Cathedral.

Anne Cranston, Gloucester Cathedral's Project Manager said: "The installation of solar panels on such a beautiful and beloved building as Gloucester Cathedral has raised interest in solar retrofitting, both locally and nationally. It's been fantastic that MyPower has been taking such great care with the work. They've managed to accommodate both the physical restrictions of the site and the fact that we're a place of worship, as well as a busy destination for visitors from all over the world."

Mypower finished installing the solar panels in January of this year, and held a 'big switch on' and blessing for Evensong on the 21st of January.