We reported recently on projects by councils to have PV cells installed on homes in Suffolk and Stoke, and the UK’s first ground-mounted solar farm to be built in Cornwall. Well, the plan by Birmingham’s council might just top them all.
This is a scheme which will cost one hundred million pounds, and it will mean that ten thousand homes will have solar panels installed. The council is not going to take the whole brunt of the cost however, it will be part funded by commercial banks, and part funded by the energy suppliers themselves.
Of course the project is going to be able to make use of the feed-in tariff which will mean that eventually it will pay for itself. So much so that there are already plans to use two hundred thousand pounds that will be generated by the project itself to install additional solar panels when the time comes.
This undertaking has a dual purpose. One is of course to reduce carbon emissions and become more environmentally friendly overall. That is important because there is a government target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Beyond that, however, Birmingham have set themselves their own target: to reduce their carbon footprint by 60% by 2026. This is clearly an important step towards this goal, and one which councils up and down the country are beginning to take.
It is rarely enough, however, to just introduce a scheme which is environmentally friendly, especially one which is so expensive. There is no escaping the fact that the economy is going through tough times at the moment, and so anything to benefit the economy is also welcome. Of course this scheme will do exactly that by creating jobs for those who manufacture the solar panels as well as those who install them. Indeed renewable energy is now good for business, especially with the cost of non-renewable energy ever increasing.
In fact the money-saving aspect of renewable energy, and solar energy in particular, is what makes it so appealing to so many people. You have the feed-in tariff of course which starts making you money as soon as the solar panels are installed. But that is just the added advantage, because solar panels are already going to save you a lot of money on your energy bills even without the new tariff.
Even so, the feed-in tariff certainly makes solar energy an even more appealing prospect, one which has been impossible to resist for an increasing amount of people. Whether or not the same rates will be maintained by the government in their spending review is yet to be seen of course, but for the moment they are readily available to anyone who wants to take advantage of them. This is something which more and more local councils are now doing as well, which is putting Britain on the road to being a sustainable country.
Solar energy is officially the most popular type of renewable energy, and this news comes at the same time that industry executives in the UK tell the government that they should not cut the rates of the feed-in tariff.
Over 2,500 households have installed solar panels since the introduction of the scheme in April of this year. That is a large increase on the number of installations previous to the introduction of the feed-in tariff strategy. The solar energy panels of course have the advantage of being environmentally friendly, and on top of that will reduce your energy bills. With the introduction of the feed-in tariff however the benefits were increased even more because this allowed the opportunity for ordinary people to actually make money from installing solar panels.
This is undoubtedly what has led to the increase in the uptake of solar cells, and is why leaders in the sector have written to the government asking them not to reduce the rates of the feed-in tariff as that would inevitably make it a less appealing proposition.
The government is set to announce a spending review in the coming weeks and there have been rumours that the schemes to do with renewable energy are set to receive cuts in spending. If this does happen, warn the executives, fewer people will take up renewable energy projects for their homes. This will lead to the government not reaching their targets for reduced carbon emissions.
Instead, the UK executives recommend that the government leave the rates the same at least until 2013, as this will give enough time for investors to get their confidence that the situation will be stable enough for them to begin to make plans. At the moment, for those who have already had solar panels installed and signed up to the scheme, the rates will not change. There is no need to worry therefore for people who have already installed solar panels, but for those with plans to do so soon, unless they do it before the spending review comes out, they may be left with a lower rate or, potentially, the elimination of the tariff altogether.
At the moment of course this is all speculation as the government has not officially announced anything, although reading between the lines they have made hints that changes could be made. The uncertainty is not good for the sector, although that has not stopped certain investments from being made already. Most notably, a solar farm in Cornwall has been given the go ahead and several councils across the country are planning to make use of the feed-in tariff.
When a decision has been made regarding the spending on renewable energies by the government we will be reporting on it here. It does mean that there is a small window now to get involved in solar energy before any changes are made, which will ensure that you can make full use of the scheme.
Councils in Stoke-on-Trent and Suffolk are going to be among the first in the public sector to cash in on the government’s feed-in tariff system . In Suffolk, they are planning to install a solar farm of ground-mounted solar panels to generate clean electricity. While in Stoke, plans are under-way to get up to one thousand homes installed with PV cells.
The feed-in tariff scheme allows for the generation of profits from solar energy as well as electricity. All the energy which is fed back in to the national grid is given a certain value, which is paid to the owner of the solar cells. This applies to private individuals, businesses and now the public sector as well. Since the introduction of the scheme earlier in the year there has been a marked increase in the number of solar cells which have been installed.
Just this week, as we reported, a council in Cornwall gave the go ahead for the first ground-mounted solar power station to be built near Truro. A significant amount of electricity can be generated in this way, both providing savings to energy bills and reducing the amount of pollutants being released into the atmosphere from non-renewable energy sources.
In Suffolk, the plan is to go into partnership with private firms to build a solar farm in Bamford on the site of a converted landfill site. This will be with the dual purpose of reducing the carbon footprint of the county and to set up a long term source of income. This is intended kick start a growing renewable energy sector in the county. As in Cornwall where this is set to create jobs and improve the economy, no doubt in Suffolk also they are hoping to create a new renewable energy industry in the area.
The same also goes for Stoke where a deal has been made with E.On to provide the installations of solar panels. This is said to have cost £4 million, and will benefit not only council-owned homes, but also privately owned residences. The solar energy applications are only one aspect of this green scheme, with construction makeovers also being planned including, for example, using sheep’s wool as insulation in lofts.
As always, for schemes such as this to be successful they need to be not just environmentally friendly but financially viable as well. With the feed-in tariff this has become an increasingly realistic proposition and something that more and more people and organizations are taking advantage of. Even without the feed-in tariff however, solar energy is becoming more attractive as non-renewable energy sources increase in price and the cost of solar panels come down. This is a growing sector and the earlier people get involved in it the more profitable it is going to be, not just financially but for the environment as well.