Stories of Change: The past, present and future of energy

Energy Stories Library item 01 Aug 2017

Solar history made in Gloucester

For over 1300 years a place of worship has stood at the heart of the city of Gloucester. Now Gloucester Cathedral, a monument to architectural endeavour and place of spiritual guidance, is preaching about cutting edge technology in the form of solar energy.

With 150 panels carefully positioned on the nave roof, the Cathedral has become the oldest building of its kind in the world to have installed this form of renewable energy. The system, generates 25,000 kilowatts of electricity - enough to make 250,000 cups of tea.

Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a successful Sponsor Our Solar Panels campaign, the work was completed in November 2016. The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester, performed a rooftop dedication of the new solar array, which is not visible from ground level.

Dean Stephen said: “One of the important messages to get across is that we have married the ancient with the modern in the service of our environment. There is something immensely powerful about a place of worship, such as a cathedral, striving to lead the way on sustainability issues.

“The local community also has a sense of ownership over the solar installation as many groups and individuals made a financial contribution to the project.”

The solar project supplies 25% of the cathedral’s electricity and there is no additional carbon footprint reduction given the cathedral’s previous commitment to purchasing “green” electricity. The installation will also save over £4,500 on annual energy bills.

The work forms part of ‘Project Pilgrim’, an ambitious programme to conserve and restore the Grade I listed building, improve its sustainability, enhance accessibility and create a green public space.

Dean Stephen stated how pleased he was that the Cathedral has been able to use the ‘gift of creation’ to generate its own energy, explaining that there has been an extremely positive response to the installation.

He said: “We have had overwhelming support for this move towards renewable energy from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Gloucester Diocese, partners and the local community. People have been taken with the idea that an historic building like the Cathedral can innovate and adopt modern ideas to become greener and more sustainable. We hope others can learn from our experience.

“In England over 11m British people visit a cathedral every year and if we are able to say that we take issues around climate change seriously then that message is going to reach a huge audience.”

As part of Project Pilgrim, the car park is being removed and replaced with a landscaped space which will act as a ‘green lung’ for the city. The Cathedral, which has nearly 500,000 visitors per year, is preparing for Phase II which will include the construction of a new church building which will have sustainability at the heart of it.

The move also contributes to The Church of England's national environmental campaign ‘Shrinking the Footprint’. The church is committed to a carbon reduction target of 80% by 2050, in line with Government commitments, with an interim target of 42% by 2020.

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