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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
First 'Eco church' looks to sun
Solar panels were fitted on the roof of the church
A church in west Belfast is looking to the heavens to provide light and heat for its parishioners.

St Oliver Plunkett's Church in Glenveagh Drive has become the first in Northern Ireland to plug into the power of the sun.

Solar panels have been fitted on to the church's roof with the help of a grant from Northern Ireland Electricity and the Energy Saving Trust.

The panels will produce around 4000 units of eco-friendly electricity each year.

The new "green" church held an official opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Parish Priest Father Martin Magill said: "I've been encouraged by the response from people in the parish and I'm especially pleased that some people are interested in installing panels on their own homes.

"I chose the feast of St Francis of Assisi for the launch because of his love for creation; churches need to be giving an example of practical ways of caring for God's world."

The Sun
Turning sunlight into energy could be the future

Delta Hamilton, NIE Energy Services said the project was "inspirational" for the whole community.

"Substituting solar power for fossil fuel use makes very good sense," she said.

"This project demonstrates how easily renewable energy sources can be integrated onto any building."

Ms Hamilton said the system would reduce the carbon dioxide emitted into the local environment by two tonnes each year.

She said that NIE hoped that supporting this type of non-polluting energy source would help develop the market and encourage other homes and businesses to invest in sustainable energy solutions.

"Up until recently, there were few installations of PV in Northern Ireland.

"Since NIE developed a top-up fund - up to 25%, for the existing EST DTI Solar Grant of 50% - there has been a massive increase in interest," she said.

Speaking at the launch of the new church, Fr Sean McDonagh said global warming was one of the most serious ecological problems facing the planet. The consequences for the poor could be "terrible" he warned.

"The best way to teach is by example.

"That is why the initiative taken by St Oliver Plunkett Parish in West Belfast to install photovoltaic panels thereby cutting down on carbon emissions is so important," he said.

Noel Williams, Head of the Energy Saving Trust in Northern Ireland, which manages the DTI's Solar Grant initiative, said he hoped others would follow St Oliver Plunkett's example.




SEE ALSO
City's first 'Eco' school opens
22 Jun 05 |  Northern Ireland
Solar energy scheme planned
23 Aug 04 |  Northern Ireland

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