Chester Cathedral has become the first cathedral in the north of England to install solar panels on its ancient monastic building.
Roof-mounted solar panels have been installed on several of the South Transept and Nave roofs of the Grade I listed Cathedral over the summer and started producing and consuming their own electricity last year. The 206 solar panels generate 22-25% of the total energy consumption of the building and contribute not only to the Church of England’s aim to be Net Zero by 2030, but to the ever-rising cost of energy required to operate large historic sites like Chester Cathedral, which has increased by 40% in the past 2 years.
Chester joins the cathedrals of Gloucester and Salisbury in installing solar panels to reduce the amount of carbon generated on site. However, the panels at Chester use a unique non-interventive design which means they sit on the historic roofs rather than being fixed to them. [*] The entire scheme from inception to commissioning was delivered by Nantwich based Carbon Control Limited, working closely with Donald Insall Associates, Chester Cathedral’s historic buildings consultants, who secured planning and related approvals for the scheme. Carbon Control engaged Sunfixings, a specialist UK-based manufacturer of solar panel mounting systems to design and manufacture the bespoke mounting system, so as not to compromise the lead and copper roof covers. Carbon Control overcame the challenges of installing solar panels on an historic building, including:
· Arranging for equipment to be craned onto the Cathedral roof;
· Working to strict listed building requirements for the Grade I listed medieval church; and
· Carefully considering their placement to maximise the amount of electricity able to be produced
The installation of solar panels comes at a time of soaring energy costs and increasing calls for improved awareness of the environmental impact of tourist and heritage sites. The installation of solar panels is therefore a long-term and prominent (although not visual) commitment by Chester Cathedral to contributing to the aims of the Church of England, Cheshire West and Chester, and the heritage sector more broadly to reduce carbon emissions and become more sustainable.
Dean of Chester, the Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford says
“Chester Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Chester and is determined to be responsible and set a good example. For us, sustainability includes ensuring that we are doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint and lessen our negative impact on our planet, and reduced costs mean we can fund the essential work carried out on our magnificent Cathedral. The installation of solar panels on the roof will achieve both aims, in reducing the amount of fossil fuels burnt to power our building, and in the longer-term reducing the cost required to provide this fuel.”
Andrew Fletcher, Managing Director of Carbon Control, says
“Despite being an extremely challenging project in terms of design and construction, we are delighted to have successfully delivered this 50kWp solar Pv project at Chester Cathedral. Our large project team worked tirelessly to meet the challenges created by not being able to mechanically fix to the roof structures. As the UK battles to combat the current energy cost crisis, we are extremely proud to have assisted the cathedral in this challenge by enabling them to now generate 25% of their annual electrical demand on site. Through the leadership shown by the Cathedral we are confident other historic buildings will seek to follow their example.”
As they are part of the Cathedral fabric, the solar panels received a joint blessing by the Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford and the Bishop of Chester, Mark Tanner, on Friday 27 January.
Chester Cathedral are grateful for the generous contribution from the Kenneth Russell-Hardy Will Trust which facilitated the solar panels installation.