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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Building converts to solar power
Artist's impression of the new CIS Tower
Enough electricity to make nine million cups of tea will be generated
The tallest building in the infamously rainy city of Manchester is to be covered by solar panels on three sides.

The CIS Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the UK outside London and will create 180,000 units of renewable electricity each year.

Work on the 5.5m project will start shortly and is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.

Organisers say the array of dark blue photovoltaic panels will work regardless of the weather.

Once completed, it will be among the largest vertical displays of working solar panels in Europe.

Nine million cuppas

The work is supported by a 885,000 grant from the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) and 175,000 from the Energy Savings Trust.

The panels will create enough energy to make nine million cups of tea, project organisers say.

The tower was built between 1959 and 1962 and is now home to Co-operative Financial Services.

Manchester's CIS Tower
The grade II listed building is already a Manchester landmark

Mervyn Pedelty, chief executive of Co-operative Financial Services (CFS), said: "This is a landmark development, in every sense of the phrase.

"For Manchester, the UK and for the whole of Europe it demonstrates that solar panels are viable almost anywhere.

"The Grade II listed CIS building is already a landmark, being the tallest office building outside London, but it is now more than 40 years old and the small mosaic tiles that clad the service tower of the building need replacing.

"These solar panels are the ideal solution.

"They will protect the tower from the elements, enhance its appearance and generate significant amounts of renewable energy."

Bryan Gray, of the NWDA, said: "About 40% of Europe's energy use is associated with buildings, but old building stock is renewed at only 2% per annum.

"Renewable energy and energy efficient solutions for existing buildings are key to delivering national and regional targets in this area.

"As climate change moves up the political agenda, the North West is yet again shining a beacon and leading the way for the rest of the UK."

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