Members of Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet met yesterday to talk through plans for a major solar photovoltaic project which is expected to be up-and-running by the end of March 2012.

The council is seeking permission to complete procurement for the installation of solar panels on approximately 60 County Council buildings in order to reduce the area’s carbon footprint as well earning an income from the UK feed-in tariff. The projects are expected to deliver energy savings for the County Council of £86,000 per annum or over £2 million over the 25-year lifetime as well as reducing the output of 400 tonnes of carbon per year.

Tenders have been invited for the first phase of the project that could see PV panels installed on around 7,500m2 of County Council roof space.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber said: “As we continue to see increases in energy prices, it makes sense to explore how we can drive down our costs in this area, especially as some scenarios show that the County Council's annual non-school energy costs could almost double to £8 million by 2020, and quadruple to £16 million by 2030.

“While work already underway through our Carbon Strategy has meant that we are on target to meet our goals to reduce carbon emissions, we must look at methods to make further energy savings. Inevitably, like many projects that generate substantial savings long term, solar panels require a significant initial capital investment, but this will be more than paid back through energy savings and income from feed-in-tariffs over the lifetime of the installations.”

Cabinet Members will make the decision on whether to proceed with the first phase based on a detailed Business Case. Progress on future phases of the programme will be subject to the outcome of Government’s Comprehensive review of feed-in tariffs.

The first phase of the project will involve initial capital investment of around £3.5 million, funded from prudential borrowing. Funding arrangements will be subject to the approval of the Full County Council at its next meeting on 24 November 2011.

If the project is given the green light, work is due to begin in January 2012.