Solar slates for Grade-I-listed church

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St Paul's Church 1
Latest technology brings Newton Abbott church into 21st century and maintains its character

When St Paul’s Church in Newton Abbott was looking for a solar PV solution to reduce its carbon emissions it wasn’t a simple challenge, as its Grade I listed status meant that any alterations had to fully maintain the character of the 19th century church.

The modern look of standard solar PV panels had already been turned down by planners, so when the church’s architects (LSN Architects) suggested solar slates, they approached Exeter-based SunGift Energy who designed a 4 kWp system using a subtle Solar Century slate system.

“The solar slates are the perfect solution for us,” said the church’s Reverend Russell Chamberlain. “They have allowed us to preserve the look of the church while generating renewable energy and lowering our carbon footprint.”

The church first started investigating a renewable energy solution around 2005 when its ecology group began investigating ways to reduce the church’s environmental impact on the planet. After years of ‘toing and froing’ with the planning authority, who would not allow any modifications to the roof, the church appealed their decisions and the Teignbridge Planning Committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing the solar slate solution.

“Opting for solar slates was a real game changer as far as the planning committee was concerned,” added the Reverend Chamberlain. “It’s taken a number of years to get here, but we finally have an excellent working solution – my only regret is that it has taken so long, as the initial grant funding we had access to would have enabled us to have a system twice the size installed.”

Before starting work, SunGift discussed the work with LSN Architects, and designed a bespoke system that took into account all of the church’s needs. It specified a 3.95 kWp Solar Century C21e slate system, which it installed on the south-facing roof of the church in order to generate the maximum yield. The great-looking panels are designed to integrate seamlessly into roofs and are highly compatible with a wide range of existing roof tiles and slates.

The system has now been in place for a number of months, and the Reverand Chamberlain is delighted with the energy it is saving the church. “SunGift did a brilliant job,” he said, “and the panels look great. Even more importantly, they are generating a significant amount of electricity and, thanks to a good summer, they’ve generated £213 in Feed-in tariff payments over the past three months.”

These figures are even more positive than the figures that SunGift provided in the initial quote, which estimated £558 in annual Feed-in Tariff payments, £401 in annual savings, and £31 in excess energy sold back to the national grid. The system is expected to save 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per annum, give a return on investment of 5.6 per cent per year, and generate a profit over 20 years of £2,144.

“There are a number of ‘slate’ PV panels that we use in installations,” said Jamie Burnham, SunGift’s design engineer who worked on the project, “but, we specified the Solar Century C21e panels because they are extremely robust and the amount of energy that the panels generate is the best in their class. They were the most appropriate solution for Saint Paul’s Church, and you only have to look at the church’s roof to see how well they blend in.”

The Solar Century C21e panels have a strong pedigree, winning countless awards including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Excellence in Innovation, the Ecobuild Best Building Product, and the Sunday Times R&D Award. They’re also extremely durable and have full wind, fire and weather testing, a 25-year power warranty and a 10-year performance guarantee.