Millions of strawberries grown in two farms in Cambridgeshire are now being cooled and prepared for sale using energy generated from 400 solar panels.

The two systems have been developed by Lincoln-based solar installer Freewatt for Cambridgeshire County Council, which owns the two strawberry farms at Milton and Wisbech. Freewatt won the contract in a competitive tender by the council.

Between them the 400 panels have an installed capacity of 93kW and cost £186,000 – a sum that Freewatt estimate will be recouped within eight years.

The panels, made by German manufacture Conergy, are ground mounted and generate enough electricity to power the whole process from washing to packing. The berries, which are grown in a polytunnel, are also cooled using solar energy, meaning they will be kept fresh until they reach the consumer.

Freewatt estimates that up to 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be saved by the installation.

Freewatt managing director Julian Patrick said the farming and food sector was becoming a key driver in producing clean solar energy: “Many agricultural and food businesses are waking up to the benefits of solar energy and it is a real growth market.

“The profile of solar energy production and energy use fit together extremely well and the rates of returns for businesses in these sectors are very good. It’s also nice to think that energy from the sun is helping to bring the iconic fruit of the summer to people’s tables in perfect condition.”