Let there be light! – from 39 solar panels

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A HARROGATE church has launched a pioneering solar panel scheme.

St Mark’s Church, on Leeds Road, has fitted 39 solar panels to its roof as part of plans to become “carbon neutral”.

The Right Rev James Bell, the Bishop of Knaresborough, and MP Andrew Jones at the launch of St Mark's solar panels. (S)

The Right Rev James Bell, the Bishop of Knaresborough, and MP Andrew Jones at the launch of St Mark's solar panels. (S)

It is the first church roof to be fitted with the panels in the diocese of Ripon and Leeds.

Rev Guy Donegan-Cross, vicar of St Mark’s, said: “It’s not just about power and financial efficiency. It’s about doing our bit to take seriously our call from God to look after the planet.”

The sun came out briefly for the opening on Saturday as the Bishop of Knaresborough, the Right Rev James Bell and the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones donned high visibility jackets and stepped onto a hydraulic scissor lift to officially launch the project. From 20ft above a crowd of churchgoers, Bishop James Bell led a prayer of dedication for the newly installed panels, before Mr Jones cut the ribbon. Also taking part was the Mayor of Harrogate Coun Les Ellington.

The opening was accompanied by an environmental exhibition and conference, with a wide variety of exhibitors including Friends of the Earth, and workshops on energy saving, biodiversity, recycling and the effects of climate change.

Installed by David Barclay Electrical, the panels have been attached on the south side aisle roof of the church, making them less conspicuous.

“Nine hundred people use this building every week,” Mr Barclay said.

“That’s a lot of light and heat in an extraordinary building.

“It’s a complex challenge, but we are delighted it has turned out so successfully.”

The panels were chosen from an ethical supplier, produce the best output of energy and have been installed to meet the planning requirements of a Grade II listed building.

“They will save the equivalent of 3,500kg of CO2 a year,” said Michelle Hayes, from St Mark’s Environment Group. “That’s 8,200 KWh, the equivalent of the CO2 generated by 9,500 car miles.”

Speaking at the environment meeting, Andrew Jones said the scheme was an example he hoped others in the area would follow.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of progress with individuals and homes, but I don’t believe we have any other of our churches yet taking this initiative and I hope we will see more do so,” he said.

“I also hope we will see more emphasis on this from companies and other organisations and charities in the area.

“It requires a huge amount of work but when people see an output for all of their work, they can see a tangible example where the difference has been made and they can see the benefit, well that helps everybody with the momentum they need to start their own schemes.”

St Mark’s Church received from WREN, a not for profit business, to cover more than half the costs.

The Rt Rev Bell said he hoped the scheme would encourage churches across the diocese to take their own steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It is the fifth mark of mission adopted by the Anglican communion, that we care for creation.

“Environmentally friendly churches, churches which are prepared to campaign on issues of climate change and the environment, need to be at the forefront of that.

“Right across the diocese there are examples of the ways that we are involved in care for the environment.

“I think if individual churches like St Marks can be a model to the wider community in which they are set that is really to be encouraged.”