Solar farm proposed to cut fuel bills for public buildings

THE East Riding could soon have its own solar farm in a bid to cut soaring fuel bills.

Like many other local authorities the council is investigating using photo-voltaic (PV) panels which create electricity from sunlight, on its south-facing roofs, with schools being one area of interest.

But they are also looking into the possibility of building a solar farm on council-owned land or elsewhere.

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Officials have estimated that using all available south-facing roofs, the council could make £1.3m a year. However the works would cost a whopping £13.8m.

The authority is looking to spend £4m in the first phase, fitting out leisure centres, depots and office buildings.

However it has to move fast as the Government has set a deadline of March next year when tariffs will be cut.

Building a solar farm would have added benefits from the economies of scale, with start up costs being paid back within a shorter period.

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It is estimated that one project at Louth, which involves five acres of panels being installed, will have paid for itself within three years. Councillors will be asked to agree to carrying out a feasibility study at a meeting at County Hall tomorrow.

Coun Symon Fraser said they were looking to “jump on a very sensible and economically-sound bandwagon.”

He said: “It is taking advantage of the feed in tariffs available. It would be bizarre to press ahead with the technology after the opportunity has finished – that wouldn’t be too bright.”

But looking at the bigger picture he said there had to be a sensible balance between using land to generate electricity and food.

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A desktop study is also under way looking at schools. The council thinks it can come up with an alternative to private sector “free PV” offers.

The report which will be discussed by the council’s Cabinet concludes: “The council is now in an excellent position to proceed with solar PV swiftly on corporate buildings.

“There are a number of ways in which finance can be identiifed for such schemes, however, as the schemes are self-financing in the long term with payback over an eight to 12-year period, any borrowing is both temporary and self-financing.”