From a Victorian railway bridge turned solar power station to photovoltaic slates being used on barn conversions, we've seen some rather stunning examples of how modern solar technology can combine with historic architecture. (We've seen some pretty ugly examples of eco-bling too.)
But whether or not you believe solar has a place on heritage buildings, there's no doubt that working with renewable energy and historic preservation brings its own set of challenges. So news that UK-based Sundog Energy have converted the rooftop of an old, listed Victorian cotton mill in London into a solar power station is worthy of note:
For Devon Mill, Sundog used its expertise gained from complex installations on other historic sites, including the grade 1 listed Kings Cross Station in London; grade 2 listed London Transport Museum, and 500-year-old Bradford Cathedral – what is thought to be the first in the country to go English Heritage restrictions precluded penetration of the roof so a ballasted system was used, carefully computed to be heavy enough to handle the significant wind-loading, and with a footprint designed to spread the weight and safeguard the roof membrane.
The 143.3 kWp installation is the largest roof-top solar power station, but the size is less important than the location. The fact that it is on a heritage site like this—and could be used as a model for other Victorian-era industrial buildings—means this is one more step forward in the effort to integrate clean energy with our existing built environment. Assuming the owners spent as much effort on insulation, weatherization and energy efficient lighting and appliances as they did putting solar on the roof, then they can rightly assume that their thrifty Victorian forebears would have approved.