First Anniversary of Solar Panels at Gloucester Cathedral


First Anniversary of Solar Panels at Gloucester Cathedral

21 November 2017

One of the most unusual and exciting moments of my ministry at Gloucester Cathedral to date was to be asked to screw down the first of our solar panels on the nave roof on 25 October 2016. It was a beautiful sunny day and it truly felt a historic moment. Within a month all 150 panels were in place and they went live on 21 November, when the Dean blessed them (in the pouring rain!). Since then they have performed better than predicted and have given us more than 25% of our electricity over the year: the system itself generates enough energy to power seven semi-detached houses, or make 250,000 cups of tea. So far, we have generated 31.12MWh of “clean” energy which has effectively meant 12,199.91 kg fewer CO2 emissions or had the equivalent effect of planting over 40 trees.  The financial saving to the cathedral is a further blessing given the £4,000 reduction in our bills!

We were delighted to have been shortlisted for the Church Times Green Awards in October this year and although we were not the winners of our Church Building category we were highly commended. Anne Cranston and I attended the presentations at Lambeth Palace and it was fascinating to hear more about the initiatives that are happening in church communities all over the country. The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtham, Bishop of Salisbury, said, “In the 117 projects entered for these awards, Christians are exploring how best to respond to the environmental challenges, setting new standards for themselves and others, church and community.  This is how national projects such as Shrinking the Footprint, The Big Switch and Living Churchyards gain local expression, as we seek to be renewable, sustainable and environmental. We do it for the love of God and our neighbours, including those yet to be born.”

So what next for us here in Gloucester? In the new Cathedral Green the plants have been chosen to give us more biodiversity as well as being an open, public space in the centre of the city. We are exploring the possibility of placing a nest box on the tower for peregrine falcons – useful in keeping down the pigeon and seagull population. When the roof repairs have been completed on Church House early next year we will be putting bee hives on the roof in partnership with Newent Beekeepers Association.  Bees are absolutely essential for sustaining crops and fruit trees and are currently under threat from the overuse of pesticides. We can all add our voices to the campaigns to limit the use of such damaging chemicals.

We have also joined Fit for the Future, a network of over 500 individuals and 81 organisations in the not-for-profit sector, most of whom are the custodians of older, heritage buildings such as our cathedral. These buildings are particularly difficult to make greener without compromise but Fit for the Future partners, including the Cathedral are leading the way in finding how to become climate-friendly, resilient and adaptive organisations.

Next year, we will begin to work with our congregation, staff and volunteers to seek Eco Church accreditation, ensuring that the focus on sustainability runs through every element of activity at the cathedral.  The challenge has never been greater.  We have recently learned that the past year has been the hottest on the planet to date since records began. There is much to be done to reverse the warming of the oceans with the predicted catastrophic effects on communities and wildlife. Each one of us needs to play a part in living sustainably into the future.

The Reverend Canon Celia Thomson



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