Sunday, 14 August 2011

Solar panel installation on #rdg Borough Council schools

I am looking forward to the special cabinet meeting that has been called more than you might think, given it's an extra meeting in the middle of August.

That's because it is to discuss a scheme to install solar panels on school buildings and other community buildings in Reading.  Last year I put forward a motion to council as an opposition councillor, seconded by Paul Gittings, in which we called for the council to quickly act to take advantage of Labour's feed-in tariff policy.  Despite warm words from the then administration we've had to wait to take back control to go ahead with the scheme. 

We originally planned to put this forward in June but the government unhelpfully changed the scheme meaning we had to rework - we have been clear from the start that this has to be a financially sound decision not just environmentally sound.  I'm confident that this is the case and have had substantial modelling done to ensure that it is a good use of resident's funds, generating a substantial financial return.

It's very exciting to see it taking this step forward, and schools across the borough are showing an interest in having this done.

The council's press release is below:

"Plans to invest in solar panels for schools and other public buildings to help Reading Borough Council reduce its rising energy costs are to be discussed at a special Cabinet meeting.

Energy costs have tripled over the last decade and are continuing to rise with a record hike this year. By using solar panels to generate power, energy bills will be cut saving thousands of pounds every year. Solar energy is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also free. Every school that uses solar energy could see, on average, savings of up to £3,000 each school year.

Officers from Reading Borough Council's sustainability and school buildings' teams have been drawing up plans for how the scheme can be progressed if it is given Cabinet endorsement. The Council has already asked schools whether they would be interested in having solar panels installed on their roof, subject to a survey by a Council contractor who will also assess whether there is the capacity for solar panels to be fitted onto their buildings.

Councillors will discuss the introduction of solar panels on school and public buildings in more detail, at its meeting at the Civic Centre, on Wednesday, August 17th. The meeting will begin at 6.30pm.

Paul Gittings, Lead councillor for environment and climate change, said: 'This is a fantastic initiative and another step towards Reading becoming a low carbon town of the future. The ability to generate our own clean, low carbon energy will help to build a secure and sustainable future for the Council.'

John Ennis, Lead councillor for education and children's services, said: 'Any building as large as a school can be very expensive to run, so help towards the cost of expensive energy bills is very welcome. As well as the huge energy and environmental benefits, children who have solar panels on their school roof will get to see how they work and learn about the benefits of renewable energy sources.'

The scheme would see an initial 'spend-to-save' investment by the Council, but this would be repaid over 10-12 years, with a Government tariff scheme, funded by the energy companies, paying the Council for each unit of electricity the panels produce. This could mean income of up to £14,000 per year for some school buildings.

Meanwhile, the Council has partnered with 10:10, an international carbon reduction organisation, who are launching a separate solar project in Reading next month aimed at helping seven local primary and secondary schools reduce their carbon footprint and raise funds to buy their own solar panels. 10:10 plan to roll out their solar schools project to other councils later next year."