Work is well underway to increase the generation of renewable energy in Shropshire with a recent project to supply photovoltaic (PV) systems for schools across the county.
As part of its pledge to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, Shropshire Council has signed up to the national Carbon Trust Carbon Management Programme.
The Council’s comprehensive plan of action aims to reduce emissions by 35 per cent by 2014, by undertaking various carbon reduction initiatives and increasing the generation of renewable electricity and heat in Shropshire through its Renewable Energy Delivery Programme.
This includes several projects ranging from the installation of solar photovoltaic panels to biomass wood pellet boilers in schools and other council buildings throughout the county.
One of the most significant renewable energy projects has been the recent design and installation of bespoke photovoltaic systems for 16 schools over 17 sites across Shropshire by SolarTech Ltd, one the UK’s leading renewable energy specialists.
With 725 kWp* of PV arrays (approximately 3000 solar panels) having been installed, the initiative is expected to generate 580,000 kWh of electricity per year and save the schools an estimated £60,000 per year in energy bills.
This ambitious £1.3 million project was completed in just four weeks to enable Shropshire Council to meet the deadline to receive the government’s higher rate of Feed in Tariff, which was only available up until April 1st 2012. (After that date, the original 32.9p/kWh tariff dropped to a lower rate of to 15.2p/kWh).
SolarTech acted as principal contractor and was responsible for the survey, design, installation, and commissioning of the bespoke PV systems for each of the schools. This included the installation and fitting of solar arrays to both pitched and flat roof schools. The project involved structural and asbestos surveys, liaising with Building Control and planning departments as well as providing all the relevant documentation for the Distribution Network Operator (DNO).
The energy output and consumption of each school is now measured by a web based PV monitoring system, also installed by SolarTech, which will provide the necessary data to obtain payments under the Feed-in-Tariff.
It will also form the basis of a schools web portal, which will enable the schools to bring sustainability to life in the classroom and to teach how greener energy can help the environment.
“This has been a highly successful project thanks to the experience and expertise of SolarTech, who were highly responsive and proactive in designing and installing 17 bespoke systems and liaising closely with the various parties involved, in order to keep within what has been an extremely challenging timeframe,” said Robert Wagstaffe, Project Manager for Shropshire Council.
Under the higher rate Feed in Tariff, it is anticipated that the council will recoup the costs of the initial installation within approximately ten years, whilst benefiting from the income over the following 15 years.
Each school will also benefit from lower day-to-day electricity bills through their ability to generate their own free electricity, as well as having a state-of-the-art renewable energy installation, which is future proofed against any energy price increases.
Over all, it is estimated that the combined PV systems could cumulatively save over 300 tonnes of CO2 annually, which will also result in significant savings in the Council’s ‘carbon tax’ liability under the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme.**
“SolarTech is highly experienced in providing bespoke solar PV solutions, which are designed to maximise the carbon reduction, energy efficiencies and long term cost savings that both public sector and private sector organisations can make under the Feed in Tariff,” said Shaun Taylor, managing director of SolarTech.
“Schools are certainly one of the public sector organisations that have much to gain through the nationwide drive towards solar energy.”
In addition to the 3,000 solar panels already installed in schools across Shropshire, there are also plans to install solar panels at a further 20 to 30 Council owned properties.
As part of the Council’s programme, wood pellet boilers have also been installed in two schools and a possible further 20 boilers where feasible at other schools, which are reliant on expensive oil heating systems throughout Shropshire, are scheduled for this year.
By using innovative techniques to save energy and improve the way it deliver its services, the Council is making its buildings as energy-efficient as possible to significantly cut carbon emissions over the coming years.
Councillor Cecilia Motley, Cabinet Member at Shropshire Council with responsibilities for Carbon Reduction and Sustainability said: “We recognise our duty to play our part in decreasing our carbon footprint in Shropshire and we have set ourselves a high target to push us to do the best we possibly can”.
“It’s great to see our schools being the first to receive solar panels and benefit from using solar energy. I am sure many children at our schools will get a lot out of seeing how renewable energy is generated.
“Using energy more efficiently and harnessing our viable renewable energy resources will not only help our environment, but in these times of increasing energy costs will reduce consumption and bring financial savings.”
The Council will also be looking at greater use of renewable energy to generate electricity through ground source heat pumps, solar hot water panels, small-scale wind generation and possible installation of a hydro-electric system on the River Severn in Shrewsbury.