West Suffolk Borough Council: Solar for Business Initiative
The council has invested in renewable energy generation both through its own solar farm, and its Solar for Business scheme. The solar farm is the largest of its kind owned by a local authority, working to help the council reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
West Suffolk Solar for Business is administered by the council and provides solar panels on the roofs of businesses for free. Electricity generated by the panels is sold to the business at a rate lower than their electricity tariff to help reduce their costs.
For the council this is a vital work to support businesses and tackle climate change, whilst also providing an income to reduce the council’s reliance on council tax income. To date the council has invested £19 million into solar projects in its district.
Officers work to support business to work through the entire process, from planning and designing to financing and installation. The council has also used the programme on its own properties and leisure centres working to improve the sustainability of its operations.
The council is now working with West Suffolk College to install one megawatt (MW) of solar panels across its three campuses in 2023. These installations will consist of 2,500 solar panels that will generate 900,000 kilowatt hours of renewable electricity per year. The installation will directly reduce the college’s greenhouse gas emissions by 200 tonnes per year.
The programme is now operating on 67 sites and prevents 1,300 tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere each year. In addition, businesses save around £125,000 a year on reduced electricity bills.
From April 2023 the council will be selling electricity generated at its Toggam Solar Farm into a peer-to-peer network energy exchange. This will enable the council to power not only its own estate but also sell any surplus electricity.
The 11,441-megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity generated per year is enough to power around 3,205 homes and offset the emission from 1,457 cars. In the future, there are five megawatts of projects are in the pipeline on top of the one to be generated by working with West Suffolk college.