Saint Matthias Evangelical parish church in Plymouth has had a solar PV array installed on its historic roof. The solar system was installed by Exeter-based SunGift Solar and is set to save the church hundreds of pounds a year on electricity bills whilst significantly lowering its carbon footprint.

The church, which serves Mutley, the city centre and Plymouth University, has had 16 Canadian Solar modules fitted to the south-facing roof its church hall. The installation of the panels presented a particular problem due to the steepness of the roof. As there was no a ‘ridge’ to hang a roof ladder on, SunGift staff had to utilise the system’s panel rails to safely install the array. SunGift were able to install the system in just three days.

The Reverend Paul Bryce, Chaplain of the church, said: “One of our major running costs is our electricity bill, so anything that we can do to reduce this – and ensure that it doesn’t rise over the coming years – is hugely beneficial.”

In addition to reducing the church’s carbon dioxide emission by more than 2 tonnes per year, the PV panels will generate more than £1,200 in electricity bill savings and feed-in tariff payments.

The installation also includes 16 SolarEdge OP250-LV power optimisers, which maximise energy throughput from each individual module and communicate performance data to the SolarEdge monitoring portal. 

Gabriel Wondrausch, Managing Director of SunGift Solar, said: “It’s always satisfying to install renewable energy systems for local community groups, as so many people benefit from the work.  As the costs of utilities rise, many more churches are looking towards renewable energy, as it guarantees them lower costs over both the short and long term and it reduces their environmental impact.”

The Reverend Bryce added: “Using a reliable local company like SunGift Solar to carry out work has its definite benefits.  Not only did they fully accommodate the needs of all of the groups that use the hall, but they saved us valuable time and money by carrying out additional maintenance work on the roof and replacing a number of broken slates. I can’t recommend them highly enough.”

The idea for solar panels started last summer when the church carried out a sustainability audit as part of the Church of England’s national Shrink the Footprint campaign, which is aimed at reducing emissions by 42 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.  The audit clearly showed that installing a solar PV system would deliver both environmental and financial benefits. 

“We have a high number of community groups that use the hall,” added Reverand Bryce, “particularly our Little Angels nursery group, which uses the facility every day.  This means that almost all of the free energy we generate is used by us, rather than being fed back into the national grid.”

St Matthias’s Church is also going further to engage its congregation, providing them with an information sheet about the system and access to its online statistics package so that they can monitor how much energy the panels are generating minute by minute.