Sunday, 28 June 2015

Council-run solar farms – a new trend?

There are a lot of contradictory messages about renewable energy from national politicians.

These are all stories from the WMN - all from the same day earlier this week:
Energy secretary reassures West 'we do not want large-scale solar' | Western Morning News
Go green to turn South West into an economic powerhouse | Western Morning News
Somerset MP warns of 'wild and premature' claims over planned tidal schemes | Western Morning News

The question now is whether local government is showing more interest in getting involved in local energy projects:
Futures Forum: Local energy can be very profitable: "Seizing the opportunity of decentralised energy generation can provide new income streams for communities and councils."
Futures Forum: The Role of District Heating in our Future... Exeter & East Devon Low Carbon Task Force to address Transition Exeter meeting... Tues 11th November
Futures Forum: Local authority and community energy projects are going to pose “a big challenge" to the Big Six providers
Futures Forum: "In most other countries, renewable energy projects are owned by local communities: and so there's a huge groundswell of support for them."

This is a recent piece from British Gas:

Powering up: Wales's first council-owned solar farm

Date: 16/06/15

Council-run solar farms – a new trend?
The ultimate design challenge

Solar farms are cropping up all across the UK. If you haven’t noticed them before, you will soon. Britain is now home to 465 solar farms. 184 of these farms sprung up just last year. But recently, local councils have been getting in on the action. A new £2.5 million council-run solar farm in Wales is set to produce enough energy to power around 700 homes.

We spoke to Chris Morrison, Head of Solar at British Gas about the project.

How much power could the solar farm produce for the area?

The farm is expected to produce around 2,300MWh per year, or enough to power 700 homes. The farm will also save up to 1,272 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – that’s the equivalent to flying from Cardiff to Cork 9,100 times.

Why was Wrexham chosen as the site for the solar farm?

The location is land owned by Wrexham County Borough Council. Wrexham has been a leader in renewable energy for some time, but this is the first time they have decided to run a solar farm. They’re hoping the farm will benefit the community.

Will the new solar farm have any cost to the local residents?

Wrexham County Borough Council has funded the solar farm, but they have done this on the basis that this will be a long-term investment. The council will reap a positive return from the site, from the Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme over 20 years and the electricity that is exported to the grid.

What’s unique about the design of this solar farm?

The solar farm has been designed with wide gaps between the solar modules and will leave 70% of the land for the landowner to continue grazing sheep. So, it’s a dual use site.

The site came with a number of design challenges. It has three fields with a river running through it and a large number of protected trees, which you can’t chop down or touch. In addition, there are a large number of high voltage overhead and underground cables and gas mains. When you’re digging into the ground to install solar photovoltaic (PV) frames, you have to be very careful about where you drill.

Is solar technology becoming less expensive?

Yes, costs are coming down, mainly due to an increase in solar production in Europe, USA and China. New and more efficient technologies are coming through without the cost increases. There have also been a number of operational improvements, which is helping to reduce the cost of solar PV installation.

Could the solar farm help people with their energy bills?

This solar farm will feed directly into the grid. The cost of solar is coming down and it is a key part of the energy mix in the UK, to help secure supply and create greater price stability and sustainability for consumers. It’s worth mentioning that anyone can install solar PV systems on their home to reduce their electricity bills.

What other solar projects are you involved in?

Another exciting project that we’ve been involved in is a solar farm of 13,000 panels for Toyota to power its Deeside manufacturing plant. The farm was opened in August 2014 and will provide 10% of their electricity – enough to produce 22,000 car engines. British Gas also works in north Wales with Welsh Water, and has installed about half a dozen solar installations in north Wales including one in Anglesey.

Another project that we’re really excited about is the work we’re doing with community benefit society, Gen Community, to offer solar panels for local government sites such as schools and town halls across the country.

Powering up: Wales's first council-owned solar farm

See also:
Futures Forum: Small-scale, locally-controlled power generation
Futures Forum: “Solar energy has a very broad implication. It falls over the entire earth. It’s very decentralized. If energy can be picked up from any point on the Earth, it suggests to you that you don’t need central mechanisms; that you can produce important things at a local level.” Thus “the Sun says ‘freedom.’ ”

Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy?
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy.. at a local level?
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy? another look at nuclear...
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy? ... It might not be just a question of how to generate power the best way ... By 2026 100% of German houses will be zero energy consumers. In the UK it will be under 5%.

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