Cornwall Council has successfully proceeded with plans to install solar PV on more than 50 sites across Cornwall, including schools, colleges, libraries and leisure centres. The scheme, which went ahead despite feed-in tariff uncertainty, is expected to help save more than £500,000 of council tax payers’ money a year.

News of Government’s intention to reduce the solar feed-in tariff for aggregated systems was greeted with disappointment by the Council and nearly jeopardised the ambitious solar scheme. Members, buoyed by the support of installation partner, Solarcentury, took the decision to press on and install as many systems as possible before the December 12 deadline.

As a result, over a megawatt of capacity was installed ahead of the deadline across 38 sites, providing the equivalent power consumption of 600 houses and saving the Council and its schools over £100,000 every year on energy bills.

Julian German, Cabinet Member for Climate Change said: “I have strongly supported the Council's aims to develop innovative renewable energy projects and watched the progress of the solar photovoltaic panels with interest following the reduction of the feed-in tariff. This is an astounding outcome in the face of the challenges and I would like to congratulate all those involved in pulling out all the stops to achieve this success.  It demonstrates the commitment of Cornwall Council in putting Cornwall at the forefront of renewable energy.”

Derry Newman, CEO of Solarcentury said: “Cornwall Council's ambitious solar programme is to be commended, the council is leading the way in solar and demonstrating the technology is both a sound investment and C02 reduction tool. It’s been a fantastic project for the team here at Solarcentury to work on, seeing so many benefit across the county in a relatively short time frame.”

The Council’s solar project will save over 675 tonnes of carbon each year and is over a quarter of the planned output of the Kernow solar park. Last year, Cornwall Council put plans to build a 5MW solar park on hold after Government announced a scaling back of the feed-in tariff for larger-scale installations. The Kernow solar park was set to be installed on land near Newquay Cornwall Airport at a cost of £15 million.

However, a report to the Council’s Cabinet has urged the Council to consider channelling the solar park’s unspent funds into more large-scale renewable schemes in the future.

 “We think that in the not too distant future, with electricity prices going up and costs coming down, that the business case for the solar park will stack up irresponsive of the FiT,” explained German.

 “We are extremely frustrated at Government’s position – we have only been able to deliver a fraction of our resource (for the solar park) so we want flexibility to use it on any renewables so long as the business case stacks up, including solar parks without permission,” he continued.  

This achievement, against a backdrop of uncertainty with the feed-in tariff, and scores of other Council’s abandoning their solar schemes, is a tangible demonstration of the Council’s commitment to delivering renewable energy projects and its belief in solar photovoltaic technology. It is estimated that this project will save the equivalent to 1.2 percent of the Council’s carbon footprint.

The Council plans to install on a further 14 sites over the coming weeks, bringing the total power generated to 1.2MW. The financial savings from the 52 sites together with the FiT income will equate to over £500,000 benefit to the Council a year.