Thames Water has signed a £7 million contract with Ennoviga Solar, which could see the utility company named as the UK’s largest on-site solar power producer and industrial user. Under the terms of the 25-year agreement, Ennoviga will own and maintain the solar arrays, selling the electricity generated back to Thames Water in order to recoup the investment.

The largest of the sites at Beckton desalination plant in Newham is already benefitting from its 450kW system, while the Crossness sewage works in Bexley, and the Walton water treatment works in Sunbury have seen 150kW arrays installed.

By completing these installations before the fast-track feed-in tariff review, Ennoviga will benefit from the higher incentive rates, while Thames Water will shave £100,000 a year off its giant electricity bill.

The pinch of the feed-in tariff cuts will also be lessened as Ennoviga will benefit from the electricity payments from Thames Water.

Dr Piers Clark, Commercial Director at Thames Water said, “With the price of energy forecast to increase above inflation, the way we’ve structured this agreement will give us cheaper, renewable source of power from a secure source over the long term. 

“We think this is the right thing to for our 14m customers and to help move Britain that little bit closer to becoming a low-carbon economy.”

Stefano Gambro, Director at Ennoviga said, “The UK is running late on building new power generation to replace its ageing power stations. The feed-in tariff scheme was launched in April 2010 to provide a stable investment climate so private investors would build this new capacity, and at the same time make Britain’s electricity cleaner.

“By working with us, Thames Water has led the industry in exploiting otherwise unusable space to generate clean electricity. When energy prices rise and carbon charging starts, the impact on Thames Water customers’ bills will now be that little bit less.”

Following the success of these installations, Thames Water now plans to fit more photovoltaic systems at up to 100 of its smaller locations, as well as extending the Crossness array up to 1.7MW and the Walton system up to 3MW by taking advantage of the current policy loophole.

However, if this loophole is closed before these plans are put in place, the projects may have to be rethought as systems at the higher end of the scale will be eligible for a tariff of just 8.5p per kilowatt hour generated.

Speaking with Business Green Gambro said, “You're not going to build anything with 8.5p. The plans are very much at risk. We would like more, we have a contract to do more, but the question is whether we can do so. Without the feed-in tariff, it's uneconomic.”

“We're being forced to tinker around with little things,” he continued. “Thames Water has plenty of sites and still want to build out, but if you do 50kW [projects] you have to do hundreds. That's a hell of a lot of work to do the same thing.”

Thames Water has set a voluntary target of reducing its greenhouse emissions by 20% in real-terms on 1990 levels by 2015.