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29 Nov 2011 02:11:04

Buckinghamshire church taps into power from above

When the parishioners of one of the UK’s finest Anglo Saxon churches were looking at how to make their place of worship more environmentally friendly, they took inspiration from a BBC’s Songs of Praise feature on St Denys Church in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, which had fitted solar photovoltaic (PV) power generating panels.

Now, after a £50,000 investment, the congregation at All Saints Church, Wing with Grove in Buckinghamshire has not only reduced the building’s carbon footprint significantly but also found a way of generating an income for decades to come.

The PV array from Mitsubishi Electric was installed by Freewatt Ltd which is the leading solar PV installer in Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties. Freewatt, which also installed the system at St Denys Church, specialises in designing and installing solar PV systems for domestic, commercial, schools, churches and investment projects.

The company has developed a unique method of attaching PV arrays to church roofs, which helps comply with planning permission. In the case of All Saints, the 54 PV panels were installed on the nave and south aisle roofs and are cleverly hidden from view behind the church’s parapet.

“We wanted to support the Church of England’s national environmental campaign called Shrinking the Footprint,” explained former church warden Martin Findlay, who led the project. “In light of the current global climate change crisis, we felt that, in addition to praying at services for Christians to look after God’s creation, the Church should take action to reduce its carbon footprint.”

The PCC began a feasibility study into the scheme and then began to raise funds, get a ‘faculty’ (special permission from the diocese to carry out the work), and planning permission from Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Findlay visited St Denys Church in Sleaford to find out more after realising that all churches face east and are therefore likely to have south-facing roofs, which are ideal for solar installations. He then contacted Freewatt directly.

“Martin was impressed with the work we had carried out at St Denys and asked if we could see how feasible it would be for All Saints,” said Julian Patrick, managing director of Freewatt. “We have worked extensively on sensitive historic buildings which is why we developed our unique clamping system so I knew we could help as soon as we saw the Church.”

Now, with the installation by Freewatt, the church will benefit from an annual income of around £3,000 under the government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT). This sees energy suppliers making regular payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources. All Saints will be able to sell the energy it produces to the National Grid.

In addition to significantly reducing their carbon footprint and generating a guaranteed long-term income, the congregation at All Saints can also bank on the reliability of Mitsubishi Electric PV panels which offer some of the longest performance warranties available.

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