Church set to slash its electricity bills with solar panels

A CITY church is set to see its electricity bills fall by 80 per cent after becoming the first congregation in the Capital to fit solar panels to its roof.

The solar power system at Saughtonhall United Reformed Church is among the biggest on a church in the UK.

It will be officially switched on at a special ceremony tomorrow.

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Reverend Susan Kirkbride, minister at Saughtonhall, said: “Not only will the panels mean Sunday services are mainly heated and lit with our own electricity, but many of the groups using the church during the week will also benefit.

“The church drama group believe they may have Edinburgh’s first solar-powered pantomime matinee this November, when they stage their show Beauty Sleeping.”

The church said the solar panels, which cost less than £30,000, should pay for themselves in six or seven years.

The new system, supplied and installed by local firm Christie and Ross, will produce a maximum of 9.8kw of electricity, about the same amount as panels recently installed on Bradford Cathedral.

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Surplus electricity generated by the church will be fed into the National Grid, earning cash for the congregation, and the church will take power for its own needs from the grid during the night when it is cheaper.

The decision to fit the panels came after the church’s elders arranged a review of carbon-saving opportunities by the Energy Saving Trust.

The report found the church’s south-facing roof with its 45-degree slope was ideal for solar energy generation from photovoltaic panels. Other energy-saving measures include the installation of low-power bulbs and using a dishwasher in the kitchen to save on hot water.

Rev Kirkbride said: “We are delighted to be helping to protect our environment by reducing our carbon footprint. Tomorrow afternoon, between 2.30 and 4pm, we are opening our doors to our friends and neighbours to let them find out over a cup of coffee all about the new panels.”

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The official switch-on will be performed by the Rev Ewan Aitken, convenor of Eco Congregations Scotland.

He said: “We believe churches can be real leaders in this field. Saughtonhall are breaking the ground, which is great.

“It’s a way of leading by example, to say to others that we need to do different things in the way we do our energy in consumption and generating it. Churches are often at the centre of their communities, so a project like this can be a catalyst for the whole community getting involved in these kinds of initiatives.”

Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart and the Rev John Humphreys, Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Scotland, are expected to join church members and neighbours at the launch ceremony.

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