York Minster gets go-ahead for rooftop solar plans

York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals of its kind, has been granted permission to install 199 solar panels on its roof and to fit battery storage underground.

York Minster gets go-ahead for rooftop solar plans

The Minster this week received approval for the project from the City of York Council and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England. Historic England was also heavily involved in the planning process.

Work will shortly begin to fit 199 solar panels on the roof of the Minster’s South Quire Aisle, which is more than 660 years old, and to develop a battery storage facility underneath the Cathedral site.

All of the Minster’s daytime electricity needs are set to be met with electricity generated from the rooftop solar array, once it is fully up-and-running. Surplus energy will be stored in the battery storage unit and used to power the venue’s evening services and events.

The solar array is expected to generate 75,000KWh of power each year. York Minster has not published information on the capacity of the battery storage unit at this stage.

Within the Minster, one solar panel will be installed to help communicate the project to visitors. This panel will be located with a digital feature displaying energy production and carbon savings.

“The exceptional architectural and cultural value of the Minster underpins the international reputation of York as a city, which is why we are so committed to delivering important decarbonisation projects such as this one, in turn setting a leading example for other heritage institutions to follow,” said York Minster’s director of works and precincy Alex McCallion.

Net-zero roadmap

Being able to self-generate its own clean electricity will contribute to the Minster’s ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions in operations by 2030 – a climate target which applies across the Church of England (C of E). The C of E voted in early 2020 for the development of this target and, last year, a routemap was published providing more specific actions for cathedrals, churches and other buildings to take.

All C of E cathedrals are required to switch to 100% clean electricity by the end of 2024. Tarriffs are recommended for those locations not suitable for onsite renewables. A survey of cathedrals and churches by the C of E last year found that around one-third already have solar panels on site.

From the end of 2025, they must not install new oil boilers and, if their heating system is nearing the end-of-life stage, they must consider low-carbon heating options with plans finalised no later than 2027. Energy saving measures including draught-proofing are recommended to maximise the performance of new heating systems.

The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Dominic Barrington, said the Minster’s team is “proud to be playing a significant role in not only helping to achieve [the 2030 net-zero] vision, but also inspiring other cathedrals to follow suit”.

As for York, the city was named one of CDP’s climate ‘A-List’ cities last November. A 2030 net-zero target has been set for the City of York Council’s operations.

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