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Changes afoot (and Solar Panels)

Mike Claridge - 28th June 2013

Roundabout - July 2013

St Andrew's, West Bromwich

If things go to plan you should start seeing some changes around St Andrew’s sometime this month.

Our neighbours at the YMCA are about to start the next stage of their rebuilding and redevelopment. In the last couple of years we’ve already seen the impressive Child Care Centre that’s been built at the back of the site in Pearson Street. That has meant that the block closest to St Andrew’s is now empty and ready for demolition. In time the whole YMCA building will be replaced with a new development with impressive facilities.

How will this affect St Andrew’s? The Church Council, together with Lichfield Diocese, have agreed that the car park at the YMCA can be extended over the boundary onto St Andrew’s property. This will utilise the area of shrub and grass that currently takes us a lot of work to keep clean and maintain. The extended car park will then be available for joint use. Our architect and the one for the YMCA are also working on better use of the land at the back of St Andrew’s and a possible “pull-in” for funeral and wedding cars on the Dudley Street side. Finally, and most importantly, we’re arranging to have the main entrance to the church building ramped and the pathway relaid to replace the uneven paving slabs which are becoming a menace.

The car park and paving works won’t be done until the whole project is nearing completion in early 2015. Until then there may be some disruption to the churchyard on the YMCA side of the building. If necessary we may have to use the Dudley Street entrance, the one leading into the Church Centre, on Sundays and for weddings and funerals. So bear with us, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Another project we’re progressing with is to install some solar panels on the main roof of the church building. We’re partnering up with a co-operative called Power for Good who will provide the funding that we need, together with the Stanley Trust, to install the panels. As well as saving on electricity bills we will, in the fullness of time, receive a small dividend from the co-operative from the money made by feeding excess electricity back into the national grid.


(The following forms a seperate article in the magazine and is adapted from an article written by the Revd John Wilkinson, a retired Anglican Priest, who is part of the Power for Good Co-operative. John will be preaching and presiding at St Andrew's at 9.30am on Sunday 28th July)


Power for Good (PfG) is the name of a new Co-operative founded to turn sunshine into electricity for churches and other places of worship in the West Midlands. St. Andrew’s West Bromwich is hoping to be their first customer in Lichfield Diocese

Christians are increasingly recognising that caring for the earth is a necessary outworking of our discipleship. Solar panels on church roofs are one way to do this, as they help reduce the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. This is vital if destructive climate change is to be prevented. Of course, more immediately, solar panels also help reduce the church’s fuel bills. They are especially suitable for buildings like St. Andrew’s where a good amount of electricity is used during daylight hours.

Revd. Mike Claridge, Vicar of St. Andrew’s, says:

“We’ve been looking at the idea of solar panels for a while, partly to reduce fuel bills but also to play our part in the wider move towards renewable energy sources. Power For Good caught our eyes because it’s a local co-operative. Instead of contributing to the profits of a national or multi-national company, any profits will benefit it’s own members including us.”

So how does it all work? To encourage the installation of panels, a government scheme ensures that panel owners get a ‘Feed-in Tariff’ (FiT) payment for every kilowatt-hour generated. The National Grid adds another payment. Although the FiT rate is now less than it was, the cost of panels has also come down. So solar panels remain a very good investment.

Some churches can afford to fit their own panels, but of course for many that is beyond their means. This is where Power for Good (PfG) come in. As a Co-operative it can raise ‘community shares’ though which individuals and organisations invest in PfG, become members and, if all goes well, in due course receive a dividend. PfG uses the money raised to ‘rent’ roofs and fits solar panels on them. The tariffs are paid to PfG, from which costs are met and dividends paid.

PfG’s proposed first scheme involves installing panels not only on St. Andrew’s but also on three churches in Birmingham Diocese and a mosque near Perry Barr. All will then benefit from fuel savings and also play their part in lowering carbon emissions.