Despite the recently launched feed-in tariff review, Cornwall Council is pushing ahead with plans for the first council-owned solar farm in the UK, Kernow Solar Park. Cornwall Council has reportedly submitted a planning application to its own officers, regardless of the fact that the Government has scared many investors away from UK-based solar parks by threatening to cut the incentive for large-scale solar altogether. 

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne last week ordered a review of the FiT subsidy, over concerns it had been gate-crashed by large companies looking to cash in at the expense of schools and communities. 

The Leader of the Council has since written to the Energy Minister, Greg Barker, proposing that the Government work closely with the Council as they can manage these issues through robust planning.  

The Council is now aiming to get Kernow Solar Park up-and-running before the end of the year when the Review is due to be completed. However there is concern that the Government may bring forward any changes to tariffs as soon as they believe is ‘practical’, subject to consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny as required by the Energy Act 2008.

It is very likely however that any review which changes the capping downwards so dramatically from 5MW to 50KW will seriously jeopardise any further plans the council has for renewable energy generation. “We need to remind the Government that we are following their guidelines when since 18th August 2010 an Act of Parliament allowed Local Authorities to generate and sell electricity from renewable technologies in order to support its activities. At a time when the council is having to make £170 million of cuts over four year, this ability to ‘generate’ income was seen as playing a key role maintaining service provision,” said Tim German, Renewable Energy & Partnerships Manager at the Green Cornwall Programme.

The Council's Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Julian German said, “The Kernow Solar Park has feed-in tariffs at its heart, so the current incentive rate is crucial to this project being a success

“Our project is slightly different from large business proposals because this forms part of our effort to cut carbon emissions and stimulate a low-carbon economy for Cornwall. This is not simply profit-led.” 

Cornwall Council will now seek assurances from the Government to preserve its access to the fund. “We will be holding meetings with Mr. Huhne and Mr. Barker over the coming weeks to express just how crucial the FiTs are for this project. What is crucial for this development is that we're not in a stage where we're building the site only to find changes to the tariff rate means we will be unable to access the fund,” continued Julian German.

Plans for the Kernow Solar Park were announced in 2010. The 5MW project is expected to power 1,200 homes and pay for itself within 10 years at the current FiT levels.