Creation Challenge


Cheltenham Methodist Church installs solar roof

October 22, 2009 By: davecoaker Category: Church Buildings / Manses, Local

bethesda#1Work commenced in September on the installation of a major photovoltaic array on the south facing roof of Bethesda Methodist Church in Cheltenham. Though scarcely visible from the street, the 32 solar PV (Photovoltaic) panels are expected to generate upwards of 7,000 kW hrs of electricity annually for most of their 25-yr life span. The project is the result of almost two years of intensive planning and fund-raising by a church which has already received two national eco-awards for its environmental stewardship programme.

bethesda#2Funds to cover the £39,000 installation cost, have come from the UK Government Low Carbon Building Fund, the local Methodist Church Circuit Advance Fund, Cheltenham Borough Council, The Summerfield Trust and members of the church congregation. The work is being carried out by SolarSense, the leading Bristol/South West suppliers and installers of solar PV systems, and any surplus electricity not used by the community church will be sold back to the national grid.

bethesda#3The installation of its solar PV roof marks the culmination of almost a decade of wide-ranging environmental activities. Bethesda is part of the National Eco-Congregation programme which helps churches of all denominations make the link between environmental issues and their Christian faith, encouraging them to respond through practical action. Bethesda became an ‘Eco-Congregation’ nearly ten years ago and is one of only a dozen or so churches across the country to have received two national eco-awards for its work to promote ‘sustainable development’.

bethesda#4Since receiving its first Eco-Award from former UK Government Sustainability Advisor Jonathon Porritt in 2003, Bethesda has become a registered FairTrade church, sold more than £12,000 worth of fair-trade goods, distributed more than 1000 low energy light bulbs, operated an extensive recycling scheme and given support to other environmental groups at home & abroad.

bethesda#5The independent reviewers who assessed Bethesda for their second award commented “concern for issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability seem to permeate all aspects of church life” and concluded: “From any perspective, the Bethesda environmental programme is first class. It should in our view receive maximum publicity. Other churches and indeed secular organisations should be encourage to visit and learn from their example.

bethesda#6Following the presentation of its second award by local MP Martin Horwood in 2007, Bethesda has launched its own carbon offset programme, funds from which have just paid for the installation of a solar hot water system at Sukumanwenze AIDs orphanage in Durban, South Africa.

In a recent widely distributed publication from the Environment Agency a panel of experts drew up a list of the most important things needed to “Save the Planet”. The second of their 50 recommendations read as follows: “It is time the world’s faith groups took a lead in reminding us that we have a duty to restore and maintain the ecological balance of the planet”. Bethesda has been doing so for the last decade, is actively encouraging other churches to do likewise and is now involved in sharing its concerns with the wider community.

Mark Boulton Bethesda Eco-Coordinator: or Tel: (Cheltenham) 01242 674839 Mobile: 07776 036 884 Dr Peter Boait PV Project Technical Advisor: (and member of the congregation) Exergy Devices Ltd 07740 644211 For more details on church activities visit

14 Comments to “Cheltenham Methodist Church installs solar roof”

  1. Anna Gebo says:

    I’m genuinely glad I found this post. I’ve been checking for information on solar energy for awhile.Looking forward to reading through more posts about energy.

  2. confused says:

    This doesn’t make sense. 7000 kwh for 25years = 175000 kwh. If that is costed at 10p per kwh the electricity generated is worth only £17500. Thats a loss of £21500 against the installation cost of the panels. Even if prices double there will still be a loss.

    Is it really right to encourage this kind of economic naivety for the sake of an environmental pat on the back. PVcells also contain nasties which will need to be disposed of and have so have an environmental cost at production and disposal.

  3. Coordinator says:

    Dear confused, it does make sense when you have the real numbers for feed-in tarriffs:

    These are 30-40p rather than 10p.

  4. Darryl Wenkrik says:

    Each post I have read is well written and to the point. I would also like to state, not only are the articles well written, but the lay-out of your site is excellent. I was able to navigate from article to article and find what I was looking for with ease. Keep up the great work you are doing, and I will be back many times in the future.

  5. i have to get our roof replaced

  6. Confused is quite right. Remember the subsidies were diverted from other far more deserving causes. Unlike wind farms we can expect better and cheaper PV panels to be developed. Till then our cloudy and rainy weather results in a huge reduction in output which is never admitted but can be seen if anyone disbelieves me on public display in the National Trust Heelis building where a working range of 10 to 1 is quite common.
    The economics make more sense when the PV panels are built in as part of the original roof design.

  7. Oh I forgot to add that if you read the small print the output is not guaranteed to be full for that period and after 10 years you are likely to get at best half yield.

  8. Mr Viv Evans says:

    The feature about the excellent work at Cheltenham MC mentions that there are a dozen or so churches leading the way nationwide. Out of the thousands of churches of all denominations this is so poor. But one reason for this is the lack of information and guidance being circulated by by churches centrally and by district councils.

    I have been attempting to secure solar panels at The Deepings Church in South Lincs since the start of 2010. I have gone through the phases of informing our congregation, gaining permission to proceed, finding out about installers, getting quotations, selecting the best, trying to secure funding, finding out and applying for grants, gaining planning permission (in a conservation area) and wading through inappropriate forms, informing neighbours, updating the congregation and constantly having to chase people who are less enthusiastic. Applying for a National Lottery Community grant and for planning permission are minefields in themselves.

    I have taken action in response to a letter from the Central Methodist Church (Dec. 2009) which stated that, “Over the course of the following year we will be preparing recommendations for the Conference and coordinating work to enable local churches to take action”. So where is it? What has been happening for the past nine months? Why don’t they just speak to Cheltenham and the others? Even I could now save people a lot of time! Time is of the essence. People need guidance, some finance, and less bureaucracy NOW.

    Come on, National Churches, Conferences and District Councils, let’s have some real action!!

  9. Nice article, was curious if you would allow me to link to it in a blog post im currently typing for my own site? Thanks Vince Pemelton

  10. Coordinator says:

    No problem, the link is:

  11. Just a note to say that a year after installation Bethesda’s PV panels have generated almost 7000 kW hrs of electricity. And a couple points for the critics . . . the panels pay back the energy required to produce them in around 18 months and will almost certainly continue to produce their rated power output for at least 25 years. Professor Tony Marmont of Beacon Energy has just had his 28 year old PV panels tested by Loughborough University and they are still generating the same amount of electricity as they did when they were new.
    Waiting until renewables get ‘better and cheaper’ is not an option; we need to take action now to address climate change. Demand for electricity continues to rise and harnessing the power of sun, wind and waves is by far the most environmentally option to address this. Not withstanding we all need to continue to try to reduce our carbon footprints.

  12. Nice article. Intriguing subject and approach. I will be returning back some time in the near future.

  13. If anyone wants advice on PV and what prices they should be aiming for, just ask. I am in the industry.

  14. A very interesting project I have been looking for info on this sort of project for our Chapel we have a potential useable area of roof between 80 – 90 sqm. I would like to be able to obtain further information on costs / funding etc and possibly getting our local village into the mix with possible similar project on roof of the village hall of similar roof area.
    can you let me have any further info to help me progress my thoughts into something I can put to our Church members.


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