Energise Barnsley has reiterated its commitment to deploying solar despite having to suspend its council house rollout programme in the wake of cuts to the feed-in tariff (FiT).
A statement issued to Solar Power Portal this morning confirmed that while the project is “unviable under current conditions”, the community benefit scheme intends to keep a watching brief on costs associated with deployment.
The scheme still intends to deploy solar to help reduce fuel poverty once it becomes viable and councillor Jenny Platts, Barnsley Council cabinet spokesperson for communities, revealed that the project is hopeful of launching a battery storage trial “very soon”.
Earlier this week Barnsley Council confirmed that it had suspended Energise Barnsley’s solar rollout scheme which intended to install solar systems on as many as 5,000 council houses in an attempt to reduce fuel poverty in the region.
Those households would benefit from free electricity, while surplus FiT payments would have been used to fund community projects in the Barnsley area.
Cuts to the FiT enacted in last December’s reset of the scheme meant that it was no longer financially viable, with just 320 homes benefitting from solar installations.
But speaking to SPP, Platts offered hope that the scheme could yet be revived. “The price of panels and ancillary equipment is expected to fall over time and we will monitor this closely to see whether we can meet grid-parity or provide other funding options.
“Energise Barnsley is a long-term project, and we are already looking at other low carbon technologies we could deploy to assist the projects aims of reducing fuel poverty, driving down the borough’s carbon footprint and saving money,” she said.
This could include a battery storage trial which will see homes in receipt of solar installations offered storage systems, boosting self-consumption. Platts said the council was hopeful of securing funding for the trial “very soon”.
Platts also offered an update on the 91 public buildings that were included in the Energise Barnsley project which gained pre-accreditation prior to the government’s cuts.
The council has 12 months to complete the installations due to its status as a community energy project and the first tranche of applications to Northern Powergrid have now been received, with all but one application being successful.
Energise Barnsley is now conducting site surveys for the installs, which are expected to complete by September 2016.