Council Going Solar!

Members of Hampshire County Council's Cabinet are due to hear how the first phase of a major programme to install solar photovoltaic panels is expected to be on target to be completed by the end of March 2012.

Plans will be presented to Cabinet at their meeting on 24 October 2011, seeking permission to complete procurement for the installation of solar panels on around 60 County Council buildings in order to take advantage of Government cash incentives and reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Tenders have been invited for the first phase of the project that could see panels that generate electricity from sunlight, installed on around 7,500 sqm of County Council roof space equivalent to 30 tennis courts. If given the go ahead, work is due to begin in January 2012 and following installation, the panels aim to deliver energy savings for the County Council of £86,000per annum or over £2million over the lifetime of the installation (at current day prices), together with a reduction of 400 tonnes of carbon per year.

At their latest meeting, Members of the Hampshire Senate also heard how the first phase would allow the County Council to receive maximum benefit from the Government's current feed-in-tariff paid for every kilowatt generated by the panels. This would give a total income of £11.7m from feed in tariffs over the life of the project.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber, said:

"As we continue to see increases in energy prices, it makes sense to explore how we can drive down our costs in this area, especially as some scenarios show that the County Council's annual non-school energy costs could almost double to £8million by 2020, and quadruple to £16million by 2030.

"While work already underway through our Carbon Strategy has meant that we are on target to meet our goals to reduce carbon emissions, we must look at methods to make further energy savings. Inevitably, like many projects that generate substantial savings long term, solar panels require a significant initial capital investment, but this will be more than paid back through energy savings and income from feed-in-tariffs over the lifetime of the installations."

The result of the tendering process and an update on the projected savings that would be delivered from the programme will be considered at a meeting of Hampshire County Council's Cabinet on 24 October 2011. Cabinet Members will make the decision whether to proceed with installation of the first major phase based on a detailed Business Case. Progress on future phases of the programme will be subject to the outcome of the Government review of Feed In Tariffs for renewable energies in March 2012.

The first phase of the project will involve initial capital investment of around £3.5million, funded from prudential borrowing. Phase One of the scheme is expected to pay back the initial investment by year nine, which is significantly sooner than the projections in the original business case presented to Cabinet in June which estimated a 15 year payback.

Funding arrangements will be subject to the approval of the Full County Council at its next meeting on 24 November 2011.