Future remains bright for County Council’s solar power projects

The County Council’s investment in low carbon, renewable energy is continuing to pay dividends according to the latest annual report.

Over the past decade the authority has steadily increased the amount of clean, green electricity it generates by installing solar panels on its buildings and schools and using surplus land to develop two solar farms at Tangmere and Westhampnett near Chichester.

In line with its Energy Strategy the County Council is also investing in energy storage and developing ‘grid scale’ battery sites. The batteries provide a service to the electricity grid and can store and supply electricity as required, for example, to help maintain grid stability as intermittent sources of renewable power, such as solar farms and wind farms, fluctuate throughout the day.

According to the County Council’s latest solar generation report for the 2021/22 financial year, its renewable energy systems generated more than 16,000 MWh of clean electricity for the grid, which is enough to power more than 5,500 average UK homes. This prevented 3,700 tonnes of CO2te being released into the atmosphere compared to generating the same amount of electricity from fossil fuels.

By selling much of the electricity to the grid and making use of its batteries at Westhampnett solar farm, the County Council earned more than £2.5 million after running costs during 2021/22. This is helping to offset, but not completely cover, the increase in the authority’s own energy bill.

Deborah Urquhart, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “It is important for organisations such as ours to lead by example, demonstrate the urgent need to invest in clean energy and take action on climate change. This is a good set of results, but I am keen to go much further, and faster.

“With our new battery site at Sompting due to open next year, plans to decarbonise the heating systems in our buildings and further solar and battery systems planned over the next three years, I am confident that the County Council will have an increasingly prominent role to play in supporting the transition to clean energy in the county.”

With an increase in corporate renewable energy systems coming on stream, the authority has also put in place new operation and maintenance arrangements with a specialist private sector provider. The company is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the systems round the clock and reducing system outages to maximise generation.

The County Council also works with a specialist energy partner to market the energy it generates and operate its batteries to deliver the best financial return.