A green Queen? Buckingham Palace refurb could include solar

Britain’s most famous family could soon join the ranks of more than 700,000 other U.K. households in going solar from next year.

In what could well be one of the first residential+commercial rooftop systems in the world, a new report issued by the Crown has suggested that Buckingham Palace’s 2017 refurbishment should include some form of renewable energy, with solar tipped as one option for the monarchy.

Controversy over the sums required ($458 million) to renovate the Palace dominated the headlines last week. The U.K. has only recently ended austerity measures, and the money to repair the iconic building would come from taxpayers.

However, it is widely understood that the Royal Family generally brings in more per year in tourism revenue than they actually cost the state, so it is very unlikely that a petition to halt the renovations will have any impact.

Instead, we could well see Queen Elizabeth II enjoying the benefits of solar power come next summer. The report that laid out the plans for the refurbishment included a section called Energy Efficiency, under which was written a goal of finding "various ways to provide the Palace with electricity from alternative sources to supplement the present mains power".

Both solar PV and an anaerobic digestion unit were put forward as viable options. Solar would suit the Palace, which has a large, flat roof that is completely unshaded and situated in Central London – one of the sunniest parts of the British Isles.

The report calculated that an initial array could meet 5% of the Palace’s energy needs, rising to 10% "over time as power consumption reduces and as the carbon content in grid electricity is lowered".

Buckingham Palace dates from the 17th century and is infamous for its energy inefficiency. In 2013 it was reported that the Palace’s annual electricity bill was more than $4 million, while a group of energy surveyors recently gave it a score of 0 out of 10 for energy efficiency.

The proposed renovations are primarily concerned with upgrading the Palace’s fire and water defenses, but the Crown does at least seem to view this as an opportunity to bring the building up to speed in terms of renewables and energy efficiency.

Prince Charles, first in line to the throne, has long been a supporter of renewable energy and solar PV in particular. His 180-year-old home, Clarence House, went solar in 2010, while his national estate was ran 84% on renewable energy last year, while slashing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.