The first phase of Hastings Borough Council’s energy generation programme is now underway, with PV (solar) arrays being installed on council-owned buildings.
In his monthly report on council activities HBC leader Peter Chowney says the work should have started sooner but was been delayed because of ‘technical contractual issues’.
“Thanks to the council’s recent commercial property investments, we now have more roof space to put the arrays on – so not only have we generated income from the rents on these properties, we’ll also generate electricity, which means more income,” says Mr Chowney.
There’s more good news too because the local climate means more electricity will be generated, on average around 2MgW of power which is higher than most other places in the country. Mr Chowney explains: “This part of the south east coast and, of course, Hastings in particular, has the most sunshine and so the highest energy yields.
“We will now be looking for business partners to work with so we can use their roofs too – both those who rent property from the council and those who own their own property.”
HBC will be offering flexible deals for different lengths of commitment to the scheme with the council selling the electricity it generates to business owners at well below the cost they would normally expect to pay while in addition the council will pay rents for the roof space it uses but does not own.
Mr Chowney says the deal will also involve an ‘energy audit’ to advise businesses on other energy-saving measures they can make. Details of this will be appearing on the council’s website shortly.
“In time, we’re hoping to do this with domestic properties, but this is more complicated,” Mr Chowney explains, “the roofs are smaller, so it takes longer to get back the installation costs and there are complications with mortgage providers, many of whom don’t like solar panels. But we’re working on it.”
HBC is also looking at free-standing solar panels on council-owned (or other) land, and at wind generators, which offer much bigger generation capacity but are made more difficult because of the government’s ban on some onshore wind turbines.
“A recent report by an expert panel chaired by former Conservative environment minister John Gummer warned that this policy was pushing up energy prices, so hopefully the government will scrap it soon,” Mr Chowney says.