Britain is on track to get its first ever net zero cathedral as York Minster has received approval to install 199 solar panels on its roof.
These will provide about 30 percent of the nearly 800-year-old building’s power each year, much of which goes to lighting and heating for services.
The photovoltaic panels will be placed on the roof of the South Quire Aisle, part of the cathedral dating back to 1361.
Their installation marks a milestone in the Church of England’s vision to be completely net zero by 2030.
About seven per cent of UK churches have already achieved carbon neutrality, but York Minster says it could ‘certainly be the first’ cathedral to join them.
Britain is on track to get its first-ever net-zero cathedral as York Minster gets approval to install 199 solar panels on its roof
The photovoltaic panels will be placed on the roof of the South Quire Aisle, a section of the cathedral dating back to 1361
A spokesperson told MailOnline: “We hope to be half way there by 2025, so we are in a good position to reach net zero, or close to 2030.”
HOW DO SOLAR PANELS WORK?
Photovoltaic solar panels work by absorbing light energy and using the energy to “excite” or energize electrons.
An electric field is then created across the silicon layers in the cell, allowing the electrons to flow as electricity.
The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity.
But the hotter the panel, the greater the number of electrons already in the excited state before the photon hits, reducing efficiency.
Higher temperatures also increase the electrical resistance of the circuits that convert the charge into electricity.
Approved by the City of York Council and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, the panels at York Minster will be the largest installation of its kind on a UK cathedral.
They will generate 75,000 kWh of power annually for daytime use, but any extras will be stored in underground batteries for evening services and events.
A panel will also be set up in the cathedral buildings displaying their real-time energy production and CO2 emissions saved.
This follows the installation and operation of solar roof tiles on the roof of the Precinct’s Refter, a heritage building, which now produces 11,000 kWh per year.
However, not everyone is in favor of modernizing York Minster. Some angry townspeople have branded the idea “absurd” and “wrong.”
One social media user wrote, “That doesn’t look like a historic building. I’m pro solar panels, but I don’t think they’re suitable everywhere’
Another added, “Wow, and I had to fight with the council to get some panels on my house.”
However, a York Minster spokesperson told MailOnline that the installation is a “holistic approach to achieving net zero through sensitive interventions.”
The panels are just visible at ground level, but “do not detract from the cathedral’s architecture or heritage values.”
Solar panels on Chester Cathedral received joint blessing from Dr. Stratford and the Bishop of Chester, Mark Tanner, when they became part of the cathedral fabric
The solar panels on Chester Cathedral (pictured during blessing) provide up to 25 percent of his energy and have also reduced his energy bill
The Dean of York, Rev Dominic Barrington, welcomed the decision, saying key stakeholders had been ‘extensively consulted’ to ensure the panels were ‘sensitive’ to the cathedral’s historic architecture.
He said: ‘The Church of England has pledged to be net zero by 2030 and we are proud to play a major role not only in helping to achieve this vision but in inspiring other cathedrals to follow suit .’
Another contender for the UK’s first net zero cathedral is Newcastle Cathedral, which has already installed an electric air source heat pump to provide underfloor heating.
It has also replaced all of its lights with LEDs, but the backup gas water heater it uses in the winter is holding it back from its net zero goal.
Nor is York Minster the first cathedral to install solar panels, as Bradford Cathedral did in 2011, Gloucester Cathedral in 2016, Salisbury Cathedral in 2019 and Chester Cathedral last month.
For the latter, officials have worked on making the monumental building more sustainable by supplying up to 25 percent of the energy and also reducing the energy bill.
York Minster is also not the first cathedral to install solar panels, as Bradford Cathedral did so in 2011, Gloucester Cathedral in 2016, Salisbury Cathedral in 2019 and Chester Cathedral last month. Pictured: A solar panel on Salisbury Cathedral
A York Minster spokesperson (pictured) told MailOnline that solar panels are a ‘holistic approach to achieving Net Zero through sensitive interventions’. The panels are just visible at ground level, but “do not detract from the cathedral’s architecture or heritage values”
The Dean of Chester, The Very Rev Dr Tim Stratford said: ‘Sustainability for us means making sure we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our negative impact on our planet, and lower costs mean that we do the essential work on our beautiful cathedral.’
Some cathedrals have taken several steps to become more environmentally friendly, with St Paul’s in London opting to collect rainwater.
Canterbury Cathedral, meanwhile, has installed a geothermal heat pump that uses the earth’s natural heat to heat its buildings.
At the beginning of last year it was also announced that church rules will be relaxed to allow for more ‘upholstery’ in order to contribute to environmental goals.
Previously, cushions could only be installed without permission if they did not “change the overall appearance of the church.”
But officials claimed the addition of kneeling, poufs, sofa runners or pillows would mean buildings could more easily trap heat.
Will the Church of England revive the Friday fish-eating tradition to meet its carbon emissions target?
In February, a lay member of the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, proposed bringing back the Christian tradition of eating fish instead of meat on Fridays.
Professor Lynn Nichol referred to a Cambridge University study which found that millions of tonnes of carbon emissions could be reduced each year if the Pope revitalized the practice.
It was originally established because Christ would have died on a Friday and was seen as a day of repentance, but in 1984 it was not made mandatory within the Catholic Church.
However, it was reinstated in England and Wales in September 2011, but the study found that only about a quarter of Catholics changed their dietary habits as a result.
Nevertheless, this saved more than 55,000 tons of carbon per year – the equivalent of 82,000 fewer people making a round trip from London to New York.