UK local authority to produce all electricity from solar

Two large-scale solar farms are set to make Warrington Borough Council the first local authority in the UK to produce all its own electricity from clean energy.

Solar and storage company GRIDSERVE is to build the solar farms in a deal worth more than à‚£60m.

They will be the biggest to be built in the UK since 2016. Construction of the first 34.7 MW hybrid solar farm, plus 27 MW of battery storage at York ” the largest at any UK solar farm ” is due to start imminently. This is due to be followed by a 25.7MW solar farm at Hull. à‚ 

Warrington Borough Council has agreed to pay à‚£62.34m for the two assets and will take ownership when they are operational. GRIDSERVE will continue to operate and maintain the solar farms over their lifetimes to maximise system performance and value for the council.

GRIDSERVE chief executive Toddington Harper said: “Warrington is leading the way in showing councils how solar and battery storage can help generate sustainable income to deliver vital public services, meet climate targets with clean energy, and support a low carbon economy.

“These will be the most advanced solar farms in the UK – and quite possibly the world – ushering in a new era of subsidy-free, truly sustainable energy. We’ve completely rethought the solar model, looking in detail at how to maximise value at every step, and these projects will also pioneer the use of cutting-edge technologies that serve the grid”.

Warrington Council expects the two projects to generate millions of pounds in profits every year for 30 years. The Hull solar farm will supply all the council’s electricity needs and cut its energy bills by up to à‚£2m a year. Electricity from the York solar farm will initially be sold on the open market, although a number of additional local authorities have already expressed an interest in buying its power.

Warrington Council leader Russ Bowden said: “This deal is good news for Warrington residents and good news for the environment. The solar farms will secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, contribute to reducing fuel poverty and generate an estimated operating surplus of à‚£150 million over 30 years that can be invested back into the most important frontline services.

“Councils have a major role to play in helping to meet carbon emission reduction targets. These two sites are a working model that we hope other Local Authorities will follow.”

The two solar farms will involve a number of “firsts” for the UK solar industry, pioneering the commercial use of new technologies to maximise solar generation, make more money from electricity sales, and earn income from grid services.

The 27 MW lithium-ion battery storage system at York will share the grid connection and allow GRIDSERVE to control the flow of energy so it can get better prices for the solar power and earn money by providing services that help National Grid to balance supply and demand and support growth of renewables and electric vehicles. A battery storage system is also planned to be installed at Hull in a later phase of the project.

York and Hull will also be the first UK solar farms to use bifacial solar panels, which generate energy on both sides. They will also be the first large-scale UK projects to use trackers which follow the sun, maximising generation over the whole day, and minimising ‘price cannibalisation’ risk from solar farms with fixed position solar panels which typically produce peak output at the same time each day.

GRIDSERVE and Warrington also plan to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure linked to both sites. These will be among the first in a nationwide network GRIDSERVE is developing, offering supercharging for up to 24 electric vehicles simultaneously.

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