Highgate church to be powered by solar energy: ‘Let there be light’

Members of Power up North London, Ian Grant,Nikki Brain,Vijay Bhopal & Ben Pearce,pictured at St Ann

Members of Power up North London, Ian Grant,Nikki Brain,Vijay Bhopal & Ben Pearce,pictured at St Anne's Church Highgate where they have been given permission to install Solar Panels on the roof. Photo: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A Grade II-listed church in Highgate will open up to rays of light above, after a community group won planning permission for solar panels to be installed on the slope of its roof

Reverend Andrew Meldrum, vicar of St Anne’s on Highgate West Hill since 1999, worked with Power Up North London, backing their plans for 60 panels on the slope of its roof.

He hopes the energy will power community lunches, a youth project and more daytime activities at the church where poet Sir John Betjeman was baptised.

Solar panels work as long as there is light – even in the rain, although direct sunlight is best.

Initially community campaigners feared the application would be rejected on heritage grounds.

There were concerns the panels would spoil the view of the 1850s church from Hampstead Heath.

But officers granted permission after recognising the scheme’s social and environmental benefits.

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More than 100 people wrote in to support the project, including Green Cllr Sian Berry.

She said: “By allowing the church to set an example of generating green energy for the community, the overall benefit to the borough, which has large numbers of buildings suitable for solar panels... could be very large.”

She pointed out that the panels are a similar colour to the dark grey roof slating.

Nikki Brain, Power Up chair, described how the volunteer-led group was formed in 2014, with the aim of empowering community members to build and own renewable energy.

She said: “I really like the idea that people, no matter what they do, can have a say on where their energy comes from – anyone can put a solar panel on their house.”

The 26-year-old Highgate resident, who runs the All-Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, said the panels will generate around 16,500 kWh – twice the energy consumption of the church.

This will save around eight tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

The group will finance installation costs by inviting people to buy shares, earn interest on any excess energy produced, and vote on which community projects the group should support.

– Visit www.powerupnorthlondon.org/invest to buy shares