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/ 27 July 2017

Cutting our carbon footprint in the Parish of Chelsea

Solar panels at Christ Church Chelsea

The PCC of St Luke’s and Christ Church Chelsea have recently, after no small effort, installed solar panels on the roof of Christ Church, making them the first in Kensington and Chelsea to do so. In this blog article they describe their journey, and their motivation for reducing their church’s carbon footprint.

Back in early 2015, we were busy looking at our options to help reduce our parish’s carbon footprint, in line with the Church of England’s “Shrinking the Footprint” campaign. We were buoyed up by the external momentum behind the climate agenda: the global agreement to tackle climate change (called the Paris Agreement) looked set to be agreed; as the Archbishop of Canterbury said at the time “actions have to change for words to have effect”, and we were keen to do our bit.

A fair amount has changed since then. The Paris Agreement was signed and has since been ratified, the US has sadly signaled its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement although the wider global momentum still exists, and we have just installed a 5.13kWp system of solar PV panels, which generate electricity, on the roof of Christ Church, a Grade II listed building in a conservation area.

At times it has felt like an up-hill battle to install the panels: three attempts at gaining planning permission from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; a scaling back of our plans to make the scheme more acceptable to the planners; and a reduction in the subsidy regime for small scale renewable energy. But we are incredibly proud to have finally achieved our goal and are, we understand, the first Anglican church to have installed solar panels in Kensington and Chelsea.

We chose to install the solar panels because we felt they would be a clear signal to the local community that we care about the environment. We hoped that by demonstrating that we can install panels on a beautiful and historic listed building, without damaging the building’s aesthetic qualities, we can inspire others in the local community to consider doing the same.

We also hope that the solar panels will encourage the congregation and others who use the Church to appreciate how electricity can be generated, and that it doesn’t necessarily need to come from carbon intensive sources. And also – more prosaically – because the electricity generated would be used by the Church and in turn reduce our bills.

We are very enthusiastic about this scheme and would encourage other churches to consider installing solar panels. Churches are generally blessed with large south facing roofs, ideal for solar panels. The costs of the technology have fallen dramatically, meaning that even with a reduction in the subsidy regime they still can make financial sense.

We were also very fortunate that the London Diocese were incredibly supportive of the scheme from the outset. We are very grateful for the continued assistance and guidance throughout, including with the faculty application. Treadlighter, the company who installed the panels, were also with us every step of the way, and provided a huge amount of support throughout the planning process.

For more information on our solar panels, and on other schemes around the Diocese, you can contact Brian Cuthbertson, the Diocese’s Head of Environment & Sustainability. You can also visit the Diocese’s web page on solar panels, with lots of information on how to go about it.

PCC of St Luke’s & Christ Church Chelsea.

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