Council plans to build £7 million solar farm
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is planning to set up its own solar farm which it hopes will offset more than 1,500 tonnes of carbon a year.
The council’s cabinet will receive an update on Monday, March 21 on the project to build and finance a credible solar farm at a total cost of nearly £7m.
The name and location of the site has been kept anonymous at this stage for commercial reasons, the cabinet report said.
Negotiations are in the crucial stages of the process to agree a power purchase agreement/off-take contract with a potential partner and the council has also signed a non-disclosure agreement.
So far £130,000 has been committed to the project towards the feasibility and development stages which is funded from existing resources already set aside to support key energy generation projects
The estimate for the full development and construction costs for this entire project is in the region of £6.82m, including all fees.
The council believes this could be funded through prudential borrowing, with the annual income from the energy generation being sufficient to cover the annual borrowing repayments and the ongoing annual costs and maintenance of the assets subject to cabinet approval.
As well as the potential to offset 1,500 tonnes of carbon a year, the project could offset around 54,000 tonnes over its expected life cycle.
They are looking at three options for the farm which include:
Option 1– to build the solar farm to take advantage of the council’s secured 5MW (megawatt) grid connection, as a stand-alone entity, that will feed directly into the grid at 33kV (kilovolt) and trade the power generated via that sole route.
Option 2– to combine this set-up with a private wire arrangement to a local partner, and export to trade at two levels, these being 33kV and 11kV.
Option 3– to combine both of the above with the exploration of other opportunities to provide green energy, at a low cost, to future commercial enterprises on a local industrial estate.
The council hopes that this approach will act as an incentive to traditional high energy consumers to relocate to the site, not only for the green energy but also the growth potential of the site. As part of this process, the council will also consider creating an electric vehicle charging station, powered partly by the solar farm but with battery storage facilities, initially for use by the council and wider public sector fleet, but also in the longer term for commercial HGVs and private vehicles.
At the time the report was written, the council’s proposals and financial models are based on option two.
A time line has been put together for the project and a specialist was appointed to advise on the private wire and grid connections.
A geotechnical/topographical specialist has been brought in to explore, examine, analyse, and report on the ground conditions at the site.
Lawyers have also been appointed to draft heads of terms for a typical private wire connection arrangement, and WPD (Western Power Distribution) have now concluded their report into grid capacity issues at Upper Boat which does not affect the original terms and conditions of the council’s previously confirmed grid connection offer.
The original time line indicated that the project was due to move to project status later in this financial year but with negotiations on the power purchase agreement with a potential partner now reaching a critical stage, the council feels that the time is now right to move its outline proposals to the status of a recognised project.
This would then allow the necessary approved systems of governance to be put in place for the continued development of the project, and will enable the council’s appointed team to control, approve and carry out spending decisions.
The report said cabinet will get updates during the progress of the project and further approval will be sought before the project is taken to the next stage of development.
The report said it will “make a vastly significant contribution to the council’s ability to offset its carbon footprint, and towards achieving its net zero carbon target.”
It said it would both contribute to the increase in the renewable energy provision and carbon reduction in the area, whilst also making a positive economic contribution to the financial situation of the council, which could then be invested in further related improvements to other services.
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