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An ancient cathedral in England is getting solar panels

Canon Celia Thomson bolts in the first solar panel on top of Gloucester Cathedral, in south west England.
Mypower
Canon Celia Thomson bolts in the first solar panel on top of Gloucester Cathedral, in south west England.

For more than 1,300 years the site of Gloucester Cathedral, in the south west of England, has been a place of continuous worship. Rich in history, it is home to the tomb of King Edward II, who died in 1327. Now, it has become one of the oldest cathedrals in the world to have solar panels.

"The Church of England… has a campaign which is called Shrinking the Footprint, and it's a very ambitious campaign to reduce carbon emissions throughout the Church by 80 percent by 2050," Anne Cranston, Project Pilgrim manager at Gloucester Cathedral, told CNBC in a phone interview.

Commenting on the Shrinking the Footprint project, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has previously said that the Church is "committed to mitigate the effects of climate change which will fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable in the world."

Solar power is becoming an increasingly important part of the planet's energy mix. In the U.S., for example, data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association has shown that the solar industry there installed 7,286 megawatts of solar power in 2015, an increase of over 1,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2014.

Back in Gloucester, Cranston explained why solar was seen as a viable way of making the Cathedral a beacon for clean energy.



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"We have bought clean energy for the past few years, but churches and cathedrals have the benefit of being west-east aligned and therefore a lot of us have these south facing roofs," she said. "It seemed somewhat of a gift if we could take advantage of it." Cranston went on to state that the Cathedral "will continue to go green, there is lots more that we need to do."

The installation is now complete and Monday saw the solar panels switched on, with the 38 kilowatt solar array set to help cut energy costs by 25 percent.

"From a green perspective, it'll save them about 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide … per annum," Ben Harrison, from Mypower, told CNBC in a phone interview.

Mypower oversaw the installation of the panels on the Cathedral's roof, and Harrison went on to explain that the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to planting several acres of woodland per year.

Harrison added that working on the project had proved to be "the opportunity of a lifetime. Very few people get the opportunity to go on the roof of Gloucester Cathedral, let alone be part of creating its future."

"In terms of the sustainability, the energy production, it's been extremely satisfying."