THE Prime Minister has switched on the Co-operative Insurance Society's Solar Tower project, the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the UK.
Although the work to cover the 400 ft service tower of the landmark building in the centre of Manchester is not totally complete, panels on the south side of the building went live for the first time today (Nov 3rd) after Mr Blair pressed the switch feeding electricity into the national grid.
Once all the 7,000 photovoltaic panels are in place, it is expected that the solar panels will create 180,000 units of renewable electricity each year – enough energy to make nine million cups of tea.
David Anderson, Chief Executive of Co-operative Financial Services, parent company of CIS, 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. 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."
Bryan Gray, chairman of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, commented: "The NWDA is working hard to ensure that the North West of England is a pioneering region for sustainable development and we are delighted to provide support for this ground-breaking project, which demonstrates the agency's commitment to tackling climate change in the region.
"It is vital that we work to promote renewable energy and energy efficient solutions in order to meet national and regional targets in this area. The North West is known for its leadership and this project highlights that as climate change continues to move up the political agenda, the region is yet again leading the way for the rest of the UK."
Work commenced late last year on the ambitious £ 5.5m project which is being supported by a £ 885,000 grant from the NWDA and a £ 175,000 grant from the Department of Trade & Industry.
The ground-breaking initiative has been project managed by Solar Century, the UK's leading solar photovoltaics (PV) company.