Ancient Winchester College gets a lesson in solar power

When William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor to Edward III and Richard II, established Winchester College in 1382, he almost certainly did not expect that 629 years later it would be harvesting the sun's energy to produce electricity.

But the 14th Century private school is this month set to complete a £350,000 project to fit more than 500 solar panels on its roofs.
Panels already cover the Grade II* listed classrooms, and a second phase to fit modules on the PE centre and support facilities buildings is expected to be finished this month.

Once completed, both phases are expected to provide 103MWh of electricity per year - the equivalent of that required by 35 homes.

A spokesman for installer Freewatt Renewable Energy told BusinessGreen that the first phase will receive the higher 32.9p per kWh feed-in tariff as it was completed before 12 December 2011.

However, the feed-in tariff for the second phase of the project is less certain because the government is battling in the courts to impose an effective cut to the tariff from 12 December, which could mean the second phase receives 32.9p/kwH in March, but then drops to 15.2p/kWh from April 1 for the remaining 25-year payback period.

"The College was happy to go ahead despite the possible drop in tariff so I guess if the original feed-in tariff stays in place that's a bonus for them," a spokesman said.

Listed building specialist Freewatt Renewable Energy said it was called in by the College to complete an in-depth report on the energy use of the entire estate before embarking on the installation of several separate schemes across the campus.

Works Bursar at Winchester, John Wells, said he hoped the panels would enable the college to become more energy efficient and generate money from the feed-in tariff incentive scheme.

The College has also committed to cut its carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 as part of the Winchester Declaration on Climate Change.

"Winchester College has a long and distinguished heritage but is always looking forward," said Wells. "It is important for the future of The College to harness new and reliable technologies and we are pleased to have invested in solar panels."

Freewatt managing director, Julian Patrick, said it was particularly rewarding to fit new technologies to historic buildings.

"It is both exciting and rewarding to work in such surroundings and hopefully our project will be yet another landmark in the long tradition the College has of developing and growing," he said.

 "It is also another reminder that solar energy is a sound investment and a viable, sustainable and clean way to provide power for decades to come."

By Jessica Shanklema of BusinessGreen

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