A huge solar plus storage project is set for the town of Stanley in County Durham, where up to 22,000 homes will have a combination of PV panels, battery storage units and LED lighting installed at no cost to residents.

The project will be delivered by North Star Solar after Joan Nicholson, chair of Stanley Town Council, came forward to take up the company’s offer on behalf of local residents. It will see the package of solutions delivered to the benefit of up to 35,000 local residents, with these costs paid pack over a 23 year period through the savings made on energy bills.

The project is still at the early stages, with the council preparing to hold a series of community meetings to find out how many of the 22,000 homes being offered the package want it. If all homes in the area are positive about the offer, North Star Solar estimates the project will cost around £140 million to deliver – an average of £6,363 per home.

Following an initial survey of homes in the area, the average solar PV system to be rolled out as part of the project will be 3kWp, potentially adding 66MW of residential solar. North Star Solar plans to use a mixture of panels from Trina and Jinko, who, according to North Star’s managing director Peter Sermol, have been selected due to their strength within the market.

“We went through all the balance sheets of the tier one manufacturers and liked these two because of their products and also because they’ve got the strongest balance sheets. If there’s a 25-year performance guarantee and the company is no longer there it’s worth less,” he told Solar Power Portal.

The project also marks the start of a new partnership with Sonnen, which will supply the project’s battery storage units alongside regular supplier Leclanché. North Star Solar has previously worked with the Swiss manufacturer’s 3.2 kWh module, including on a 40 home initiative across London boroughs, but will also use the German firm’s modular batteries which can be increased in capacity in 2kWh stages.
Sermol said: “We haven’t installed Sonnen before but we’re very happy with their technology and the battery chemistry.”
The principle contractor for the scheme will be Solgain UK, a renewable energy solution provider based in Liverpool. Sermol said the company will train groups of local engineers to install the systems alongside its own team.

While unable to reveal the source of the finance being used for the project, Sermol claimed that the experience of the team behind North Star will be make securing these funds an simple task.

“The background of Stuart Dodd [also managing director] and myself is finance. Stuart used to be at Goldmans for ten years and then did internet banking for Nomura globally. My background is pretty much financial services all the way through so we’re very familiar with the Square Mile so getting the institutional funding and construction finance is not a problem for us,” Sermol explained.

While Sermol was able to estimate when the project will be completed, the project is certainly set to go ahead, with suppliers, local delivery teams and finance already prepared to deliver a project for the people of Stanley.

The cost of energy was found to be a major issue for the area after a survey conducted on around 31,000 local residents found an appetite for measures to reduce energy bills.

North Star Solar is targeting an initial saving of 20% for Stanley households from the solar panels and LED lighting, with additional savings resulting from the battery storage systems moving demand away from peak prices.

Speaking to SPP earlier today, Joan Nicholson said: “For an area like this it’s invaluable. We have a number of small villages within the parish of Stanley who have multiple deprivations and we need to alleviate the poverty and the fuel poor.

“Any saving we can give to the people of the area is a benefit to the economy,” she added.

Sermol added that North Star Solar, which works through local authorities and housing associations, has been in talks with up to six other local councils for similar projects but in his words: “Stanley stole the show. Joan Nicholson was first to come forward which we are very pleased about.”

In a separate statement released by the company, chief executive Paul Massara added: “The interest from councils is very strong and we are thrilled that Stanley Town Council is the first project to go live”.

The company said announcements from other councils are due imminently.