The Story Solar...

Vicar Giles with the solar panels

Solar Panels Make St John’s Waterloo into Landmark of Sustainability

St John’s Waterloo, listed at Grade II*, will be one of the most sustainable historic landmarks in London when it reopens this summer after a £5.2 million restoration. It is also believed that it will have London’s only completely carbon neutral crypt.

Over the last two weeks 80 solar panels have been installed covering almost all the south-facing roof and making St John’s only the fifth listed church in Central London to have them. St John’s panels will have the capacity to generate 30 kilowatts per hour in bright sunshine and over the course of a year could generate 28,597 kWh* - more than all but one of the other churches (listed and unlisted) with solar panels in London. This would be enough to power 7.6 average households** and will avoid up to 13.1 tonnes of Co2e.

St John’s restoration project, led by Eric Parry Architects with OR Consulting Engineers and Buxton Building, has involved wiring and plumbing the crypt so that the power needed for heating and lighting (over the course of a year) can be entirely met by the solar panels from the outset. There will also be enough solar power to light the church above but not quite enough to heat St John’s vast open nave. However, the renovation includes infrastructure for air-sourced heat pumps to heat the nave in anticipation of improvements in technology that will make this viable.

The solar panel project has been made possible by a grant of £30,000 from the Mayor’s London Community Energy Fund.

Students from Roots and Shoots College Kennington helping renovate the parterre garden at St John’s.

Students from Roots and Shoots College Kennington helping renovate the parterre garden at St John’s; another aspect of the restoration project.

I’m known as a Church of England climate campaigner so I am delighted that at St John’s we are putting words into deeds. Our solar power will benefit everyone involved in the projects run by our charity The Bridge at Waterloo and hundreds of other community and arts organisations who will be using the crypt when it reopens. Making St John’s sustainable isn’t just about energy saving, it’s about helping fulfil our commitment to being here for all who need us now and over the century ahead.

The Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar of St John’s

I see the installation at St Johns as a very significant one. It is a great example of a highly listed building installing solar panels as part of an integrated set of measures, decarbonising heat, energy efficiency, and on-site renewables. Environmental considerations have been built in from the very beginning, rather than as an afterthought, which has been key to what has been achieved. (Along with passionate leadership!) Because St John’s is such a visible and iconic church, in a central location, I hope it will inspire others to follow suite.

Catherine Ross, Open and Sustainable Churches Officer at the Church of England

Clean and renewable energy sources are vital in making London a net-zero carbon city by 2030 and tackling the climate emergency.

The London Community Energy Fund provides much-needed support to get local energy projects running and deployed faster to reboot the economy and benefit hard-hit communities. We commend St John’s Waterloo for putting community energy at the heart of its major restoration. We hope this project will inspire other community groups to apply to phase five of the London Community Energy Fund.

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy

When St John’s reopens, it will be one of the most sustainable and affordable conference, concert, performance and big party spaces on the South Bank. As well as the beautifully restored nave, new spaces in the carbon-neutral crypt will be bookable for rehearsals, committee meetings, start-up businesses, therapy, music and art sessions, candlelit dinners, youth groups, exhibitions, experiential happenings and more.

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*Although, because of the UK weather, the amount of energy generated is likely to be less than 28,597kWh, St John’s will still be one of the top church producers of solar power. The only other Church of England listed churches with solar panels in Central London are: St James Piccadilly, St James Clerkenwell, St Silas Pentonville and St Mary Islington. Source: Church of England and this map.

**According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the average household uses 3,731 kWh per year.