Solar panels could light the way for Council renewable energy plan

A Littleport business centre could become “a shining light” in the district after being singled out as the ideal location for Council-funded solar panels.

At an East Cambridgeshire District Council Operational Services Committee meeting, it was unanimously agreed that, in principle, ESpace North provided the best opportunity for the Council to kickstart the implementation of its own renewable energy infrastructure.

Further investigation will now be carried out into the costs before a final decision is made by the Council to proceed.

Councillor Julia Huffer, Chairman of the Operational Services Committee, said: “In June this Committee approved the Council’s Environment Plan which included a set of actions the Council aims to undertake over 12 months – one of which was to explore whether the Council could operate its own renewable energy infrastructure with the long-term target of generating enough renewable energy to match the energy used by the Council in its buildings, street lights and storage depots.

“This is the first step towards achieving that and could mean ESpace North becomes a beacon – a shining light – for our future goals here.”

ESpace, which is owned by the Council, was identified as an ideal location for the solar panels following an investigation into matters such as planning, land and property ownership, financial investments and returns.

The venue ticked the boxes for its roof structure, ability to easily fix panels to it, the orientation of the roof, its size and pitch and the prospect of how much energy could be generated.

Councillor Huffer said: “Our preliminary investigations indicate that the solar panels would cost approximately £50,000 to install with an estimated payback on that investment of six to eight years and a lifespan of 25.

“This makes the investment very favourable – allowing us to save around 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – which is 2% of our carbon footprint at the Council – and paying for around 60% of electricity use at ESpace with the potential to sell excess electricity back to the grid later down the line.

“In short there appears a sound environmental and financial basis for progressing this proposal to a more formal tender stage and continuing to strive to meet our objectives as laid out in the Environmental Plan.”

In Autumn 2019, East Cambridgeshire District Council declared a climate emergency and agreed to explore a wide range of actions to improve our local environment and help mitigate climate change.

One such commitment was the preparation of an annual Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. This was launched in June 2020, with a second plan approved in June 2021.

You can find the full agenda item on the Council’s website.