A Grade 1 listed Norman church based in Withington is set to become the first zero carbon place of worship in the UK. The renewable work on St Michael and All Angels Church is expected to be complete by the end of September.

The church will be fitted with 22 solar panels on the roof and a new biomass boiler. These measures will generate electricity to power the building’s low lighting, however other measures will be taken in order to save energy. The church’s outdoor floodlights will be switched off in the summer and will only be used from 10.30pm in the winter months.

Once all these measures have been taken, St Michael’s officials say it should be completely carbon neutral and energy savings of up to 40% will be achieved.

The installation will be paid for through grants from the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust, the Low Carbon Buildings Programme from DECC, the Big Lottery Community Sustainable Energy Programme and a very generous private donation, however, the feed-in tariff payments and export tariff payments (paid for any excess electricity fed back into the grid) will cover the ongoing cost of sawdust pellets for the biomass boiler.

The church also used some of its own funds which it would have had to spend on replacing the new boiler.

Project leader Matt Fulford said, “People debate about how new buildings can be made zero carbon.

“Some debate whether historic buildings are too difficult to work with and should be exempt, but in little old Withington we have quietly got on and achieved it in a Grade 1 listed late Norman church.

“What's more, you wouldn't even notice it.

“The church will still be the same peaceful haven except the warmth is a little more reliable and the finances are a little more assured.”

Back in July the Solar Power Portal reported that British Gas’ Green Streets programme had found that the UK’s churches and religious buildings could raise a combined total of £34 million a year by installing solar power through the country’s feed-in tariff scheme.