Solar farm plan gets off ground

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Plans for a £5.2m solar farm on land near Middleton are being drawn up by Lancaster City Council.

The plans are part of the city council’s Energy Strategy, which aims to reduce the cost of the its day to day activities, and promote “clean, green and safe places” across the district.

The 15 hectare, 5MW solar farm is being proposed on part of 40 hectares of council owned land at the former ICI/Shell site near the village of Middleton.

The council said power from the facility would be fed directly back into the National Grid, and will contribute to the amount of renewable energy produced nationally, offset the council’s environmental impact, and provide a source of income for the council.

Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox, cabinet member with responsibility for property and climate change, said: “One of the four priorities for the council is ‘Clean, Green and Safe Places’.

“One success measure is to minimise the council’s impact on the environment, which includes reducing climate change emissions in its operations. As such the delivery of the Energy Strategy is a priority for Lancaster City Council.

“This key document also sets out opportunities through which the council can contribute positively to the challenge of reducing budgets. The council has to anticipate yet further reductions in government funding in 2016/17 and beyond. Taking a strategic approach to its own energy management with a range of projects will aim to reduce the cost of the council’s day-to-day activities.”

A detailed feasibility study has now been comissioned, and the £5.2m investment would provide a return of £4m over 20 years

The council said that the next stage would be to commission the detailed work needed to submit a planning application.

It is estimated the fees involved in this would cost £70-80,000.

The council’s Energy Strategy also includes an investigation into the use of biomass boilers.

The report said that rather than just embark on a biomass boiler installation programme a detailed assessment of individual buildings and how energy can be best managed within in them has been commissioned, starting initially with Salt Ayre Sport Centre. The assessment will recommend what energy management measures will provide the best value for money and sustainability. The results of the Salt Ayre assessment are expected soon.

Meanwhile a Lancashire County Council initiative to develop a Collective Energy Switching Scheme across the county failed to attract much interest. Only 857 of the 10,179 people that received an offer opted to take it up and switch supplier. In Lancaster, the scheme was not considered to be sufficiently successful to warrant it continuing.