Solar farm could light up 830 homes

A similar scale solar farm development in Somerset.
A similar scale solar farm development in Somerset.

An ambitious renewable energy programme is aiming to be a shining light to provide power for hundreds of homes.

The plans are the first stage of a ten-year investment strategy for Northumberland County Council.

This project alone could generate around £400,000 of gross income annually to the council at current prices

Coun Grant Davey, leader of council

The county said it will help to support the delivery of frontline services; mitigate the impact of energy price inflation; reduce carbon emissions; and in the longer term, help to tackle fuel poverty in Northumberland.

The plans are for a solar farm in a north west section of the Ashington Community Woodland and will be made up of around 16,000 panels on a site of about ten hectares within the 135-hectare woodland.

The electricity would go into the National Grid and would generate enough electricity to power around 830 homes.

The council currently consumes in excess of 36,000 MWh of electricity each year, aside from school buildings, at a cost of £3.2m.

The annual cost for utilities, including gas and water is approaching £10m, and the council currently has to allow £1m each year to cover the impact of utilities inflation, which adds to the savings burden placed on the authority.

Coun Grant Davey, leader of council, said: “Through this programme Northumberland will become one of a growing group of progressive authorities which are looking to reduce their energy costs while also addressing environmental and social objectives and delivering community benefits.

“This work follows on from a number of other energy reduction projects across Northumberland including solar PV on 150 community buildings including more than half of our schools.

“A total of 900 council houses already have solar PV and a further 1,000 installations are under way – through the work of a dedicated in-house team of specialists.

“This project alone could generate around £400,000 of gross income annually to the council at current prices – that is a significant sum as we strive to maintain services in difficult financial times.”

The solar farm will be naturally screened by retaining a belt of existing trees and vegetation around the site.

A public drop-in event will be held at Woodhorn Museum on Monday, June 8, from noon to 8pm, for people to learn more about the council’s proposals.

A planning application will then be submitted, and if given the go ahead, works could be completed by March 2016.