The Covid situation has been a particular reminder of just how hard it is to be in a crisis beyond anyone's control, which also serves as a warning of how serious a climate warming crisis would be. It is now clear that collectively and individually we all need to address the energy we use in as many directions as possible, in order to get CO2 out of the equation as soon as possible.
Several years ago it was realised that Bishop Street had a large church roof facing just west of south, which was ideal for a substantial array of solar panels. It was also apparent that with such a large collection of daytime users and high daytime electricity bills, there was an opportunity to produce much of that energy locally and save significant amounts of money. After several years of getting the listed buildings permission in place we finally got the panels installed last December, and the illustrations show some details about our first 10 weeks in operation. We don't have as much daytime use as we would normally, so a higher proportion will be feeding back into the grid. With the dramatic fall in price of solar panels there are no longer direct grants (FITs) for new installations. Instead, with a smart meter installed, the electricity companies buy (at around 5p/kWh) the exported electricity instead, adding carbon-free electricity to the grid and reducing the demand on gas-fired power stations.
It is estimated that in 9 or 10 years Bishop Street might recover, by savings and exports, the installation cost. It was only possible because a range of donors came forward to pay for it. There are comparatively few situations where a donation will justify itself in both doing so much good for the world at large and continue to make a valuable contribution to the church over the potential panel life of 30+ years.
For churches with suitable roof areas, this is definitely a possibility that should be considered alongside other creative options to increase sustainability. With the shift from petrol and diesel cars now underway, and the move from gas-heating looking vital, there will be no shortage of demand for solar energy alongside the huge increase in wind power now being installed. And if your church has car parking, maybe you could look at electric charging points for local residents and people who work nearby. This would serve your community, facilitate the shift to electric cars, raise your visibility and provide the church with a modest income stream.
Bishop Street Methodist Church