The first council-owned solar farm in Sussex has today (Thursday 8 October) started generating clean, low-carbon electricity for the National Grid.
The 5MWp solar farm, which is located on 25 acres of West Sussex County Council land east of Tangmere Airfield near Chichester, will generate enough energy to power 1,500 homes.
From today electricity produced by the solar panels will be sold back into the National Grid, earning £13.8 million over 20 years through the Government’s feed-in-tariff scheme.
The project has cost £5.2 million and will pay for itself in less than ten years.
West Sussex County Council is setting up a power purchase agreement to use some of the electricity to power its corporate buildings, which will reduce the council’s energy bills.
The solar farm is a key part of the council’s commitment to making West Sussex a more sustainable place in which to live and work. It forms part of a wider programme to install solar panels on business premises and social housing to provide low-cost, low-carbon electricity to tenants.
The project has been developed by Your Energy Sussex, the West Sussex-led council partnership working with Carillion to reduce carbon emissions, save money and boost the local economy.
Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “I am delighted to see Tangmere solar farm up and running. This is a great example of local authorities taking a lead on innovative, sustainable developments that make economic sense and benefit our residents.
“I’m also delighted to see that Your Energy Sussex and Carillion have used a number of local companies to prepare the site and build the solar farm, which has benefited the local economy.”
Michael Brown, County Council Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We want to use the income from this type of scheme to fund energy efficiency projects for our residents, particularly those on low and fixed incomes, and help them to stay warm and healthy in their homes.”
Stephen Hodgson, project director at Carillion said: “Successfully completing this first project marks the start of a 20-year programme of work. The build has gone extremely well and we have had excellent support from our main contractors, Solarcentury and Arun Construction.
“Working together we have been able to add a new lease of life to a site with an illustrious wartime past giving it a sustainable peaceful future whilst providing the local community with clean energy.”
The solar farm is on unused council land that is unsuitable for agriculture and has been designed to blend into its natural setting. Your Energy Sussex has worked with the county ecologist throughout the project and a number of improvements have been made to protect trees and hedgerows and help native species to thrive. This has included the installation of bat boxes and animal nesting sites. Sheep will also graze between the solar panels, helping with site maintenance once the solar farm is operational.
Planning permission for the solar farm has been granted for 25 years, after which time the site will be returned to its natural state.