Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Solar panels on roof of famous Cambridge chapel ‘send climate change message’

A photovoltaic engineer at work installing solar panels on the roof of the 15th century chapel at King’s College Cambridge (Gareth Fuller/ PA)
A photovoltaic engineer at work installing solar panels on the roof of the 15th century chapel at King’s College Cambridge (Gareth Fuller/ PA)

Work to install 438 solar panels on the roof of Cambridge’s King’s College Chapel is under way in a symbol of “commitment to being good stewards of our environment”.

While the panels are set to reduce King’s College’s carbon emissions by more than 23 tonnes per year, the scheme was criticised by Historic England after it was given the green light.

The heritage body said it was “disappointed” that permission was granted, adding it was being done “at some cost to the beauty of Cambridge’s finest building”.

A tower of scaffolding still stands beside the iconic chapel, with installation of the panels hoped to be completed by the end of this year and power from them coming online in early 2024.

Dr Gillian Tett, provost at King’s, said: “Many people love the chapel, they love the silhouette, they love it as the face of Cambridge, and we’re very mindful of that responsibility.

“Out of that responsibility there also becomes a chance to send a wider message about the need to try to grapple with climate change.

King’s College Cambridge solar panel installation
A photovoltaic engineer at work on the installation of 438 new solar panels (Gareth Fuller/ PA)

“We’ve tried to take measures which reduce the visual impact of the solar panels. We’ve lowered them slightly so you can’t see them quite so easily.

“The reality is you can still just about glimpse them if you look hard and that, frankly, is a reminder to all of us that we need to think about how we’re living for the future.”

She said it was “only one step on the road towards cleaner, greener energy but it is a potent and inspirational symbol of our commitment to being good stewards of our environment”.

Dr Tett said she wanted to speak about the project ahead of Cop28 and the Christmas carol services at King’s.

She said the project is “almost finished but not quite” due to “supply chain hitches”.

Shane Alexander, college project manager, said installation of the solar panels was designed to “dovetail” with work to replace the grade one-listed chapel’s lead roof.

King’s College Cambridge solar panel installation
Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College Chapel, views the installation of 438 new photovoltaic solar panels (Gareth Fuller/ PA)

The 15th century chapel’s roof had exceeded its natural lifespan and was no longer watertight.

“The restoration required that the entire lead covering was removed, recast and replaced, all while maintaining access to the building for visitors, daily services and concerts,” he said.

“The project was extraordinarily complex and has been delivered by a fantastic team.”

The roof restoration began in September 2022 and work on the solar scheme began in March.

Arrays of 219 panels will be fixed to each of the north and south slopes of the chapel roof and will generate an anticipated 123,000 kilowatt hours per year, the college said.

This will help the college in its ambition to decarbonise its operations by 2038 and reduce its carbon emissions by more than 23 tonnes each year, the equivalent of planting 1,090 trees, King’s said.

King’s College Cambridge solar panel installation
A view of King’s College Chapel as the installation of new solar panels continues (Gareth Fuller/ PA)

It added that the new panels, combined with other existing ones including on an accommodation block, would reduce the annual electricity demand of the college’s main site by around 5.5%.

The Reverend Dr Stephen Cherry, Dean of the Chapel, said: “Whilst the economic input of the solar panels are valuable in monetary terms, its main public benefit is in the carbon saving over a period of many years.

“It must also be seen as part of the college’s drive to make its buildings, and especially the chapel, more efficient and as a tangible example of how the chapel can and should be contributing to the moral and ethical wellbeing of this place of learning.”

Mark Hart, joint managing director at Barnes Construction, which is working on the project, said he hoped the “success of the scheme will encourage similar endeavours that promote sustainability in historic buildings”.

Oliver Caroe, heritage and conservation-accredited architect for the project, said the “example of what can be achieved is already inspiring and informing others”.

The project has been exclusively funded by philanthropic donations made to the chapel and college over “many years”.