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Church goes Green PDF Print E-mail
Green
Written by Steve Glennie-Smith   
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 22:20

The Ledbury Reporter recently carried an article about the 54 solar panels that were installed on the roof of the Parish Church of St. Michael's and All Angels last winter. The blessing by the Bishop of Hereford (who was hoisted in a fruit picker the full 15m height of the main building on Monday 9th May - brave man) was the culmination of months of planning and obtaining permissions. This was quite apart from fund raising - the total cost was about £45,000.

 

 

Because the building is listed (Grade 1), listed building consent was required. Although planning permission is not normally required for solar installations, it is necessary for buildings in the Conservation Area of the town. The most difficult hurdle the church council had to overcome was, however, to obtain a 'faculty' from the Diocese of Hereford. This is a special permission that is always required before any alteration may be done to a church building. Clearly it is important that any work carried out on a historic building must have minimal visual impact on that building. It is impressive how this installation was carried out within these constraints.

The panels are on two of the three south-facing roofs of the historic church, arranged in two rows of 18 on the central (highest) roof, with a single row of 18 near the apex of the roof of the North Aisle. They cannot be seen from the ground, which was a major requirement before permission could be granted. However, as the photo to the left shows (which was taken near the winter solstice), there is no major shadowing, even in mid-winter.

The inverters, which are required to convert the DC electrical output of the panels to AC for feeding into the grid, are neatly concealed in a cavity above the main entrance porch.

 

The maximum power rating is just under 10kW. A meter that shows how much electricity has been generated so far, output now and a graph of output vs. time, has been installed near the main entrance. Performance so far is impressive: about 2200 units from December 2010 to mid-May 2011, with some peaks during the exceptional April sunshine approaching the maximum of 10kW. The installation is estimated to provide 1/3 the church's total electricity requirement, but the generous feed-in tariff for renewables will more than pay their total electricity bill.

The feed-in tariff for solar (as from 1st April 2011) is 37.8p per unit for installations up to 10kW peak (dropping to 32.9p/unit for larger installations, up to 100kW peak). There is a higher rate of 43.3p/unit for smaller (eg. domestic) installations up to 4kW peak, but this is only available for retrofit systems.

There is a wi-fi link (in the foreground of the photo above) to the church office. Soon the performance data will be viewable on the church's website.

This is the first such installation on a church in Herefordshire. Most churches are aligned east-west (thus providing a large south-facing roof), and are not shadowed by anything else. This makes them ideal candidates - and the number taking advantage is increasing. Others that have already done so include St. Mary's, Hinkley (Leics.) and St. James's, Piccadilly, London.

Another major installation in Ledbury is on the new building in Market Street owned by HJ Pugh.

St. Michael's Church was already important by the time of the Norman Conquest, and is recorded in the Doomsday Book (1086). The present building was completed in 1140, and was extended and modified in the 12th and 15th centuries. It replaced an earlier Saxon building.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 May 2011 13:02