Rochdale Borough Council has started construction on Greater Manchester's first publicly owned ‘solar farm’ in an attempt to become Britain’s greenest local authority.

The council is developing a 250kWp solar array on one acre of contaminated land located at the Rochdale Leisure Centre. 

Councillor Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, explained why the site was suitable for PV. He said: “Options for this site are limited, due to its former use as a waste disposal site and contamination present, so a solar farm would allow the council to turn this land from a liability to a productive asset.”

“Faced with making savings of £51 million over the next two years, we needed to come up with imaginative solutions in tough economic times and come up with an alternative as traditional energy sources become scarcer,” continued Farnell.

In addition to the development of the ground-mounted array at the leisure centre, the council is also installing a 100kWp array to Heywood Sports Village. Both of the council-owned solar installations will be completed by renewable installer, Southern Solar. 

Howard Johns, managing director of Southern Solar said that his company was “excited” to be working on the project, describing Rochdale as a “proactive council”.

Mark Widdup, director of economy and environment for Rochdale Borough Council, added: “We are leading the way as a ‘green’ authority and this solar farm will not only bring in revenue for the authority but help us become more energy self-sufficient in a time where fuel bills are on the rise.”

The council currently consumes around 27.5GWh of electricity every year, at an expense of £2.8 million last year. Rochdale’s carbon reduction commitment tax bill alone in 2012 was £339,000. In an attempt to curb its emissions as well its energy costs, the council has agreed to a 48% cut in CO2 emissions by 2020.

Rochdale aims to secure the title of the greenest local authority by continuing to invest in renewables in order to generate “new multi-million-pound revenue streams, fund municipal services, put land assets to work, underwrite energy security and offset energy prices”. 

In addition to the council’s solar portfolio, a pilot wind turbine in Kirkholt has been operating since April, with the council submitting plans for another two council-owned wind farms in Hopwood.

Update: This story has been amended because it incorrectly stated that the scheme was the first publicly-owned solar farm in the UK