Warrington Borough Council in the UK will become the country’s first local authority to use exclusively renewable sources to produce its electricity.
The council has signed a deal with sustainable energy firm Gridserve which will see the company build the two largest new solar energy farms in the UK since 2016: the first, a combination solar farm and battery storage system in York, is to begin construction “imminently”; while the second farm, which will deal exclusively with solar energy, will begin construction in Hull later this year. The council will invest £62 million (€72.41 million) across the two farms with the intention of taking over full control once construction is completed – additional funding will be contributed by Investec Bank and Leapfrog Finance.
The electricity needs of the council should be fulfilled entirely by the Hull plant, while the York farm will produce electricity to be sold on the open market: between the two farms, enough electricity will be produced to power 18,000 homes per year; and the shift to solar power is projected to reduce the borough’s carbon emissions by around 25,000 tonnes. In the long term, the project is expected to contribute to the council’s saving targets by reducing energy costs and generating commercial returns; as well as creating new local jobs in the growing field of sustainable energy production.
Councillor Russ Bowden, the leader of the council, 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 £150 million [175.17 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.”