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Listed Buildings & Solar Panels: What Are The Rules?


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Listed Buildings & Solar Panels: What Are The Rules?

When you think about it, installing solar panels onto a listed building is really combining the past and present (with plenty of future, too). A coming-together of age-old architectural structures and the modern technological feats of solar energy. A pretty interesting match, right?

Sometimes, it can go wrong. It requires meticulous planning for it to work, as well as the involvement of local councils and professional solar consultants. You also need to respect the original infrastructure of the building, no matter how noble your energy-saving endeavours might be.

So, without further ado, here’s what you need to know about installing solar panels onto a listed building.

Permitted development

The main difference between solar panel installations on listed buildings and solar panel installations on regular buildings is this: regular buildings come under the ‘permitted development’ bracket, which means that planning permission is not needed as long as standard guidelines are adhered to.

Installing solar on listed buildings is more complicated. You’ll need to make a case for what’s known as ‘listed building consent’ (LBC), and you’ll need to make your case strongly. For listed buildings, consent from local councils is granted on a project-by-project basis, so you’ll have to stand out from others who are going down the same route.

You may also have to get planning permission even if you do receive LBC, so keep that in mind.

One way that you can do this is by being creative in the placement of your solar panels. Show that you’ve considered the project, and maybe even speak to building professionals to get their opinion.

Be sensitive about it

Think about it – you’re effectively disturbing the historial materials of the building by introducing a new-fangled layer. You should think about the aesthetic of the building, and do your best to stay in-keeping with it. You don’t want to potentially damage materials that hold historic value(not to mention sentimental value within the community that lives near the building).

This means using materials that complement the existing materials, and most importantly: find out what these existing materials are. You’ll need to know if they can support a solar panel system. If not, you can use a bracket instead.

Can you remove the panels if needs be?

As you can tell, it’s a sensitive procedure. If, after installation, you need to remove the panels, you’ll want to do it quickly and with minimum fuss. Make sure that you can do this before choosing a system that is difficult to remove.

According to Historic England, two things that they look out for when considering solar installation on listed buildings are ‘minimum intervention’ and ‘reversibility’. This means that you should install the panels in a low-key, discreet way and, crucially, it should be easy to reverse.

Where to put electric meters?

If you’re planning on connecting the solar panels to the national grid, you need to think about where to place the electric meters. Again, discretion is key. You don’t want to put bulky electric boxes all over a beautiful building, so think strategically and look at the logistics.

You’ll probably want to consult a professional engineer for this part, as they’ll know the best places to put the meters. Keep the aesthetics in mind.

What material is the roof?

As you can imagine, some materials just won’t support solar panels. If you’ve got a thatch roof, for example, then solar definitely isn’t suitable. Thatch degrades over time, getting thinner and thinner. Most PV systems come with 25-year guarantees, which is the main reason why Historic England routinely rejects solar installations on thatch roofs.

You’ll want to consult with your solar installer to see if your building is suitable. Most slate roofs can support solar, whereas lead roofing can be tricky. There are so many variables that you’ll need a professional perspective.

Let us help

You can get that professional perspective from us. We’re experienced solar tradespeople, with years of providing high-tech solar solutions to homes, businesses, and all kinds of buildings.

Call 0800 112 3110 to arrange a consultation – it’s just a short, casual conversation where we talk through your options. You can also fill out an enquiry form here.