Our faith in hire power

PLANS for a solar panel on the roof of a former church could see a Leith community become the first in Scotland to become carbon neutral.

A study is being carried out at the Edinburgh Hindu Mandir and Community Centre on St Andrew Place which would see the panels placed on the building.

That would allow the centre, which used to house St Andrew's Church, to create its own energy supply and power the surrounding area if enough was left over.

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Selling electricity back to the national grid to provide additional income would also be an option.

Those behind the scheme said a 50,000 grant had been secured and that they were working with Heriot-Watt University on the next step.

It is hoped that if the initiative is a success, other large community facilities in the Lothians could mirror it, reducing carbon emissions and opening doors for additional cash.

Project leader Som Narayan said the Hindu religion's origins helped the group come to the decision.

"Most of the Hindus here are from India, which is the country that will suffer the most from climate change," he said. "We felt like we wanted to do something like this, but we also have a range of other projects.

"There is support from the whole community. We are doing the feasibility study now. It all costs money and we will have to be careful, but in the future we know we can be self-sufficient and have enough to go back to the national grid, which could bring in some money, too."

The group encourages Hindus to substitute food from Asia for Scottish produce. Members of the mandir are also encouraged to watch their energy waste, travel and urged to recycle.

Mr Narayan, who came to Edinburgh to study a carbon masters programme at Edinburgh University, added: "It is very exciting.

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"We know that the centre can go carbon neutral, then we will see how much we could have left over."

The grant came from the UK Climate Change Fund and the centre is working with firm Carbon Masters to take the idea forward.

Despite Scotland's lack of sunshine, modern photovoltaic panels can convert even straightforward daylight into energy.

Kevin Houston, director of Carbon Masters, said: "People tend to associate Scotland's contribution to the renewables revolution as being in wind and tidal energy but solar can play its part, too.

"Modern solar panels are much more sensitive than older products, meaning that daylight alone can produce energy without the need for bright sunlight.

"The large surface area of a church roof is ideal for installing photovoltaic panels.It's a great way for an urban building to make its contribution to tackling climate change.

"Hopefully this will act as a catalyst for businesses and homeowners across Scotland to look at similar projects."

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