Solar Power for UK Churches

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Solar Power Being Used in Churches Around the UK

solar panels on a UK church

It’s not only domestic residencies and commercial organizations which can reap the many benefits derived from solar power. Churches, too, can gain in a number of ways.

The reduction in energy costs, combined with payments from the government backed Feed in Tariff scheme can provide a welcome boost to the finances of any parish – and better still, the clean, green energy solar power provides is bound to be met with all round social and ecclesiastic approval.

Indeed, The Church of England has started to encourage more of its churches to go green with a campaign called ‘Shrinking the Footprint‘. It has to be said that the campaign is working slowly as more churches opt to have solar PV installed – and there are around 47,000 churches across the UK that may still be able to benefit.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels work by converting daylight into energy. By using silicon solar cells, the energy is converted into electricity and then used up on the property. Any electricity that is produced and is not used up on site can be sold back to the national grid. The panels do not need constant bright sunlight in order to work efficiently.

Only daylight is required. Modern solar panels are substantial and very little can go wrong with them as they do not contain any moving parts. They are guaranteed to last for twenty five years which falls into line with guaranteed Feed in Tariff payments. The company that fits the panels will be able to make sure the panels are consistently working at their most efficient when they carry out an annual maintenance check.

Are Churches Suitable for Solar Panels?

Solar panels offer an ideal solution as churches typically have large roof spaces and they are built facing eastwards. The ideal location for the panels is on the south facing roof, though the site should not be overshadowed by trees or the church spire. Previously, churches have found that the cost of the installation is too high, but with the introduction of the Feed in Tariff scheme, they have become a more affordable and viable option.

In theory, churches offer an ideal place for the installation of solar PV due to their large roof space. However, older churches may need to find a solution where solar PV can be installed without damaging the roof structure that is usually old and of historic interest. The panels should be installed on a roof that is strong enough to hold them in place for at least twenty five years.

The roofs of some older churches may not be able to take the strain and therefore may require extra structural work before a system can be installed.

There are some solutions available that will make it easier to have the panels fitted and a specialist MCS accredited solar panel company that deals with larger installations may be able to assess the church roof and advise what can be done to fit the panels in a way that will not damage the roof. Also churches with traditional lead roofing do not offer a suitable site for the panels. However, more modern churches should not have any problems in getting a solar PV system up and running.

Planning Permission

Planning permission is a confusing matter when it comes to churches in the UK as they are often listed buildings. In effect, this means they can apply for planning permission but may not be able to obtain it. Other churches that are not listed buildings will usually have no problems in getting a system as it will be classed as permitted development on the site. If you are unsure, then it is best to check with your local authority.

[Photo Credit: eco-innovations.co.uk]

This has been a guest post for Easy Ways to Go Green.

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