Berkshire

Newbury carbon-neutral church installs solar panels

Lord Carey & Revd. Cowan display a PVC panel at the Church
Image caption Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey is a member of St George the Martyr

A Newbury church has been praised by the former Archbishop of Canterbury for its bid to become one of the first carbon-neutral churches in the country.

Lord Carey of Clifton is a regular member of the congregation at St George the Martyr Church.

The church put in 129 solar panels last month as well as insulation.

Environmental adviser to the Archbishops' Council David Shreeve said the church was one of a "handful" in the UK to attempt to go carbon neutral.

Mr Shreeve said: "There are an awful lot more churches that could install solar panels.

"The Church of England has 16,200 churches, most of which have south-facing roofs.

"A lot are thinking about it, but there is a heritage aspect to consider."

Speaking to BBC Radio Berkshire, Lord Carey said he hoped St George the Martyr in Wash Common would become a "beacon" for other churches.

He said: "I've been backing this project. I think it's wonderful and certainly I think other churches should be going this way as well.

Image caption The church is based on the early Renaissance pilgrimage chapels found in northern Italy

"Some other churches could speed up a bit. I hope other people will come along and see what they've done."

St George's plans to derive all its energy needs from sustainable sources rather than fossil fuels.

The Reverend Paul Cowan said the church had already begun to produce electricity which was being fed into the grid.

"We've got 129 panels on the roof which at its peak can produce 25 kilowatts," he said.

"We consume 9,000 kilowatts every year, and we are projected to produce 20,000 kilowatts per year.

"The church will be a green provider of electricity to the grid, and the solar panels will provide an income of £7,000 to £8,000 per annum for the church."

St George the Martyr Church is one of only two in England designed by FC Eden, an authority on Italian art and architecture.

'Gas-guzzling boiler'

It is thought to be the only church in the country based on the early Renaissance pilgrimage chapels found by the Italian lakes in the foothills of the Alps.

"It should be in northern Italy, and it doesn't heat too well," said Mr Cowan.

"We have a real problem with getting it warm. We could only get it to 12C or 14C with our old, inefficient, gas-guzzling boiler.

"We are putting in a whole new insulated ceiling. We couldn't put insulation in the loft as you would at home because the ceiling is too fragile."

Image caption The church will have its entire ceiling replaced as part of the plans to conserve energy

The plan to turn St George's carbon neutral almost had to be abandoned in February due to a cash shortage.

"We were £50,000 short, and I crawled to church two weeks ago to tell them the bad news," said Mr Cowan.

"I came into church to say it's all off. The deadline was going to pass for the grant for the solar panels.

"By the Monday morning the next day we had raised £40,000, and the builders reduced their fee by £7,000."

The new solar panels for the church have cost £80,000 and insulating and strengthening the ceiling will cost a further £160,000.

The church was built to commemorate the fallen of World War I as well as those who perished on both sides in the Battle of Newbury in 1643.

It was finally completed in the 1960s.

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