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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 17:00 GMT
Tower's solar panels switched on
Manchester's CIS Tower
The grade II listed building is a Manchester landmark
Solar panels on the side of the tallest building in Manchester have been switched on by the prime minister.

Tony Blair switched on the panels on the south side of the CIS Tower on Thursday, feeding the solar power into the national grid.

Work on all the panels, which cover three sides of tower, is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The tiles will work whatever the weather and will create enough energy to make 9m cups of tea.

The 28-storey listed building was the tallest in Europe when it was built by the Cooperative Insurance Company in 1962.

Artist's impression of the new CIS Tower
Enough electricity to make nine million cups of tea will be generated

It is now home to Co-operative Financial Services (CFS).

David Anderson, Chief Executive of CFS, said: "We are delighted that the prime minister has taken time out of his busy schedule to visit this important environmental project in the centre of Manchester.

"The building, which is Grade II listed, is now more than 40 years old and the small mosaic tiles that clad the service tower of the building needed replacing and solar panels are the ideal solution.

"They will not only protect the tower from the elements but will also enhance its appearance and generate significant amounts of renewable energy, regardless of the weather."

Work on the 5.5 million project began late last year. It is being supported by a 885,000 grant from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and a 175,000 grant from the Department of Trade & Industry.

Bryan Gray, Chairman of the NWDA, said: "This project highlights that as climate change continues to move up the political agenda, the North West is yet again leading the way for the rest of the UK."

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