About this group
The idea of installing solar panels to the church roof was first discussed at the ‘Friends’ Committee meeting held on the 7th October 2010.
The original idea was to incorporate an eco-friendly development into the Community Garden project in the hope that it would assist in attracting funding in support of Phase III of the ‘Vicar’s Vision’.
Initial enquires with solar energy installers indicated that by selling any excess electricity generated by the solar panels back to the national grid (via the churches energy supplier), could raise around £1000 per annum. This would be enough to cover the cost of all the energy used by the church in the course of a year and would free up money to be used for the good of the church and local community e.g. the Community Garden project.
The solar panels could be sited on the smaller south facing roof of the church and couldn’t be seen from street level because of the surrounding parapet. This meant that their installation would not detract from the aesthetics of the building.
At the April Committee meeting of the ‘Friends’ it was agreed that the solar panel installation be pursued and that grant applications for funding be applied for from outside sources.
The ‘Friends’ Secretary had mentioned that the Portsmouth Diocese were supporting such projects under the Church of England’s ‘shrinking the footprint’ initiative.
The Chairman had researched similar schemes on the mainland and highlighted the installation at St.Deny's Church in Sleaford, Lincolnshire as a good example of what could be achieved.
At the July meeting of the Committee it was reported that the Parochial Church Council were in favour of installing the solar panels subject to a faculty being obtained from the Diocese.
It was at this meeting that the preferred contractor to carry out the installation was chosen from the 3 quotations that had been sought and Pure Green Energy Ltd based in Ashey, Ryde were awarded the contract.
By August the Church Warden had put all of the necessary paperwork together to submit to the Portsmouth Diocese for their September meeting to discuss and approached the IW Council for Planning Permission. An application to the Lottery Funded Community Sustainable Energy Programme would be submitted.
September brought the news that English Heritage had approved the installation.
October and a set back occurred when it was discovered on application to the Lottery Funded CSEP that this stream of funding had closed and that other funding possibilities needed to be investigated.
November and an even bigger setback when the Government decided that too many people were taking up the opportunity to earn money from having solar panels fitted, so they moved their deadline for reassessing the amount that is given for each unit produced from April 2012 to 12th December 2011.
The Government were in effect reducing the amount paid for each unit by half, which would have a detrimental effect on the forecast of how much would be available to support the Community Garden Project.
At this point the Chairman of the ‘Friends’ felt that the project for St. Catherine’s Church to install solar panels was ‘dead in the water’ because there was no way that the Committee would be able to raise the 80% of the installation fee to pay the installers to start the work before the deadline in December.
However, the ‘Friends’ Secretary was not going to give up so easily and managed to raise the necessary money to start the installation from ‘an anonymous benefactor’ who was prepared to make a ‘bridging loan’ until the Portsmouth Diocese were able to provide a loan once a formal request was made via St. Catherine’s PCC.
With the loan from the Portsmouth Diocese approved, the Secretary was able to pay back our benefactor and the installation of the panels went ahead during the first week of December.
The remaining balance of 20% to be paid on completion and commissioning of the solar panels was covered by St. Catherine’s PCC.
Great credit must be given to Gordon Pollard, the ‘Friends’ Secretary and David Tamcken, the Church Warden together with the ‘Friends’ Committee and St. Catherine’s Parochial Church Council for keeping this idea alive and supporting it through to its conclusion, especially when all the odds were stacked very firmly against them from October 2011 onwards and the fact that the solar panels are now in place (just one year after the idea was raised at Committee level) is no mean achievement and one that everyone involved should be very proud of….thanks should also go to Pure Green Energy Ltd for bringing the project in on time – to the IW Council’s Planning Department for its speedy processing of our application and to Ventnor Town Council for giving the project their support and not forgetting the Portsmouth Diocese for providing the loan to make it all possible. Last but not least to our ‘mystery benefactor’ who, through their very kind generosity, kept our dream alive!
All that we have to do now dear ‘Friends’ is repay the loan as quickly as possible in order to start raising funds for the Community Garden project.