High on either side of the main church roof at St Peter's, Rickerscote, the array of 28 solar panels earns over £700 per year from the Feed-in Tariff
St Peter's Church, lying just to the south of the Rickerscote Road in Stafford, was consecrated in 1957 after intensive fund raising by the community. Both the church and its community centre continue to serve the surrounding area, in ways both spiritual and temporal. Like most churches, it faces the problems of escalating running costs, particularly rising bills for heating and lighting.
In 2011, as part of the Penkside Project, the building was given an energy audit, undertaken by Stafford-based Sustainable Support Partners. This highlighted various measures that might be adopted to reduce bills and improve user comfort. Since then, several successful funding bids have enabled, along with support from Stafford Borough Council via the Penkside Project, have enabled a major refurbishment of the community centre, and the implementation of several energy-saving measures.
Revenue from solar panels
In addition, since the end of July, 2012, churchgoers have reaped the benefits following the installation of 28 panels on the main church roof. The work was funded by Stafford Borough Council, and overseen by the then incumbent priest, Father Graham Bott, who commented: 'The support of the Borough Council and all involved was very much appreciated; without this support we would not have been able to proceed.'
The latest figures show that in 2014 the church received £727 from the Feed-in Tariff for electricity generated by the solar panels. This offset to a large extent the electricity bill, reducing the latter to just £179 for the premises over the same period.
Upgrades to lighting and heating controls
The energy audit identified that the gas heaters in the church were being switched on and off manually, and hence being left on for long periods when not needed. This issue has now been addressed by the fitting of a 7-day programmer that operates the heaters automatically at required times.
Churchwarden Dave Clark is pleased about the new heating timer: "No longer does someone have to take time on a Saturday evening to switch the heaters on ready for the Sunday service; they come on automatically now!."
Also, the old tungsten filament bulbs in the ceiling lights have been replaced by more efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and fittings. This means lower running costs, and longer bulb lifetimes, so avoiding the need for frequent visits to the void above the ceiling to change bulbs.
Refurbished Community Centre
Since 2013 the Community Centre at St Peter's has had a complete makeover, with a new roof, better insulation, improved lighting, a new kitchen, and revamped toilet facilities. Funding for the work has come from the Landfill Communities Fund, Biffa Environmental Trust, the Big Lottery, and Stafford Borough Council via the Penkside Project.
The assortment of manually operated gas heaters has been replaced with an all-new radiator heating system, fed by a boiler fired by LPG. Although this is more expensive than mains gas, it proved just too expensive to connect the building to the gas main, about £5000, according to Mr Clark. The main room now has energy-efficient lighting as well.
The interior of the main room at St Peter's Community Centre now
features a new heating system and new energy-efficient lighting.