Church powered by the heavens
A Methodist church just outside Shrewsbury has become the first in the West Midlands to install a solar panel.
In their efforts to do their bit for the environment, the congregation at Bayston Hill, assisted by the Marches Energy Agency, have already been replacing old-fashioned light bulbs with low energy ones, recycling and promoting fair trade.
Now, they have moved one step further - capturing the sun's rays through the new thermal panel on the roof to provide hot water in the church.
Marches Energy Agency identified the church as suitable for a solar thermal system during an energy audit this year.
Although the technology has huge potential to reduce the fossil fuel demand and carbon footprint of a building, installations in the UK are still small.
"Many people think that because we get less sun than some other countries, a panel won't supply much hot water, especially in the colder months," said the agency's Katherine Shepherd.
"But, even in winter, a panel can contribute 20% to a household's hot water demand and 100% in summer - around 50% across the year. It is also a great example of action on climate change. Bayston Hill's Methodists are to be congratulated on their initiative."
The minister, Reverend Frances Bisker, said: "A solar thermal system has got everyone thinking and talking about climate change, not only in the church but also in the local community. We are thrilled to be one of the first churches - and hopefully the first of many - in the country."
The panel was installed with the help of Marches Energy Agency (www.mea.org.uk) and its Project Carbon team (www.projectcarbon.org). Funding was from Defra's Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund - managed locally by Shropshire County Council.
Information on solar thermal technology and the grants available to households and community buildings is available from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk