The need to replace the lead on the Chapel roof together with the pressing need to achieve net-zero carbon in accordance with the policy of the Church of England and of government has provided the catalyst for the application to install solar panels. The consistory court of the Ely Diocese considered the issues involved in Re King’s College Chapel Cambridge  ECC Ely 1. The Summary of the judgment issued by the Ecclesiastical Law Association (ELA) is reproduced below together with extracts from the King’s College Press Release; a further analysis has been posted Solar panels: assessment within faculty jurisdiction.
Re King’s College Chapel Cambridge  ECC Ely 1
As part of its policy on climate change, to reduce its carbon footprint, the College wished to place solar panels on both the north and south sides of the Chapel roof. The main arguments of the consultees against the proposal were that the panels would be partially visible through the parapet tracery from a few viewpoints. The Church Building Council also questioned whether panels on the north side of the roof could generate enough energy to justify them.
The Chancellor was satisfied that the scheme would benefit the College and would help it towards reaching its net zero target. He determined that he would grant a faculty for solar panels on both sides of the roof, or on the south side only, dependent upon an updated assessment of the potential carbon payback for the north roof and calculations and observations as to the effect on the structure without an identical weight on the north roof, were the eventual decision to allow for solar panels on the south roof only.
The assessment should be produced within 28 days and provided to the DAC and other bodies who had been involved in the process, such assessment to be produced within 28 days and then submitted to the consultees for comment within a further 21 days.
8 March 2023
The College’s plans to install photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of King’s Chapel have been unanimously approved by Cambridge City Council, in a vote of the Planning Committee yesterday.
The installation of the panels has been designed to dovetail with the crucial conservation works to the Chapel roof, which will see the entire lead covering removed, sand-casted and replaced, all while maintaining access to the building for visitors, daily services and concerts. The plans, which form one facet of the College’s strategy to decarbonise its operations by 2038, will meet 100% of the energy needs of the Chapel and will reduce the College’s carbon emissions by more than 27 tonnes each year.
The PV panels will make a considerable, quantifiable positive environmental impact. The potential combined annual output of the north and south slope PV panels is 128,062 kWh/year, with an annual CO2 reduction of 27,188 kgCO2. Through the panels, the entire energy needs of the Chapel will be more than fulfilled, with excess energy feeding into the College’s internal electricity network, reducing the College’s reliance on the National Grid.
In the long-term, technical analysis has assessed that – even after factoring in the payback of the embodied carbon of the panels themselves – the “lost opportunity” cost of not implementing the proposed PV panels would equate to the emission of approximately 410 tonnes of CO2 between now and 2050, independently of any electrification of heating demands. It is acknowledged that this is likely to be a conservative figure due to the decarbonisation of the National Grid falling short of anticipated targets.
The proposal is an integrated element the College’s decarbonisation strategy, developed by technical experts Max Fordham, which acts as the foundation of the College’s commitment to becoming carbon net-zero by 2038. This holistic study includes recommendations for fabric upgrades in existing buildings, moving heating loads onto electrical power, and the installation of renewable energy technologies across all applicable sites on the College’s estate. Photovoltaic panels are already installed on several of the College’s buildings, including the Wilkins Building and Old Garden Hostel, but due to its scale, no other viable surface or area within the entire College grounds can deliver the electrical output of the proposed array of panels on the Chapel roof.
One part of the overall plan is to place solar panels on both the north and south sides of the Chapel roof. Because the Chapel alone falls within the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court of the Diocese, this is the only part of the scheme which was considered by the Court. It is connected to the replacement of the lead roof which was failing as was highlighted in the 2018 QI Report and for which Leonard Ch. issued a faculty . He noted:
“. In February 2020 General Synod voted to adopt a policy for the church to be carbon neutral by 2030…
. The need to replace the lead on the Chapel roof together with the pressing need to achieve net-zero carbon in accordance with the policy of the Church of England and of government has provided the catalyst for the application to install solar panels…
The Statement of Significance asserts: “[s]o far the progress on de-carbonising nationally and within the church has been negligible. It is going to take a sea-change in approach towards such schemes.” The Petitioner likens it to the changes that have been made in historic buildings to ensure general safety and reduce the risk of fires which would not have been contemplated 20 to 30 years ago.
Updated: 22 March 2023 at 09:23.
Note: This post and the forthcoming Case Note are not the forum for discussing achievements to date of the Church of England’s “Net Zero by 2030” target.