University of Cambridge embraces solar energy

Christa Avampato
2 min readApr 4, 2024
Photo by Chris Boland on Unsplash

As a history lover and passionate sustainability advocate, I’m a big fan of retrofitting. University of Cambridge, where I’m now working on my Masters in Sustainability Leadership, has embraced solar in the center of the university grounds.

King’s College Chapel is the most iconic building at Cambridge. It’s the oldest surviving building within the College site with work on it beginning in the year 1446. At 29 meters (94 feet) high and 88 meters (289 feet) long, the roof of the chapel now has a new feature: solar panels that supply 5% of the electricity for the entire university.

Surprising no one, some traditionalists are highly critical of the new solar panels. In the name of preservation, they feel the panels are a bridge too far despite that the panels aren’t visible from the ground. To their credit, the leadership of the chapel carefully considered all of the perspectives and ultimately moved forward with the panels. It’s difficult to break with tradition, especially in a place like Cambridge where tradition lives and breathes in every cobblestone on every street.

The solar panels on the roof of the chapel show that we can be inspired and supportive of ancient wisdom and modern technology. They also prove we can simultaneously honor tradition and innovate for the future. Even better, they’re already causing other iconic buildings in Cambridge to think differently. Trinity College Chapel, completed in the year 1567, is considering solar panels for its roof, too. This is the kind of college competition I’m here for!

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Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc