Blazing a solar trail

Local government is facing significant financial pressures at a time when environmental issues have become more of a priority. It therefore makes complete sense for us in West Sussex to make the most of our natural resources and under-used land to generate clean energy.

West Sussex is one of the sunniest counties in the country, so for us it seemed a natural choice to invest in solar energy. We have two solar farms near Chichester. Our latest is the first in public ownership to be built and operated without the need for government subsidy.

We opened our first solar farm (5 MW) on a former airfield at Tangmere near Chichester in 2015. Our second, at Westhampnett, is built on a county council-owned closed landfill site with no alternative use. The 26,000 solar panels at the 35-acre site produce enough clean electricity to power up to 2,400 homes.

Your Energy Sussex

With the launch of its own energy supplier in February 2018, West Sussex County Council joined a number of local authorities working to encourage residents to switch and save money on their bills.

Industry figures show that the majority of householders still don’t compare their energy costs regularly and many remain on their supplier’s most expensive ‘standard variable’ tariff.

With 4,000 customers already on supply, Your Energy Sussex offers consistently competitive prices, good customer service and 100 per cent renewable electricity – a small percentage of which comes from the council’s own solar farms and installations.

Your Energy Sussex is a partnership between West Sussex County Council and Robin Hood Energy, a well-established, not-for-profit energy company owned and operated by Nottingham City Council. Further information is available at
www.yourenergysussex.org.uk

By incorporating a number of large batteries into the design, we created an additional revenue stream that reduces the need for feed-in-tariffs. These government incentives to support renewable energy generation have been steadily reducing in recent years and will be withdrawn completely for new solar developments at the end of the current financial year.

The batteries enable surplus energy to be stored on site and released to the local electricity grid when demand – and prices – peak. By offering this service, we help to balance energy supply and demand on the grid.

We have several potential smaller sites where more grid-scale batteries can be located away from energy generation facilities. We also plan to pilot smaller-scale battery solutions this year to reduce our bills, carbon emissions and exposure to fluctuating energy prices.

We are progressing well with a programme to install solar photovoltaic systems on the roofs of more than 70 schools. The systems are built and maintained by our appointed specialists at no cost to the schools and will reduce bills on average by approximately £1,000 a year per school at current energy prices.

Our energy strategy is ambitious and promotes the development of clean, affordable and secure energy for the county.

We want to become one of the leading councils for renewable energy generation in the country. I am really proud of what we have achieved so far and excited about the difference West Sussex can make in generating sustainable energy solutions for the future.

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