Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News

Solar farm may quadruple in size

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WIDNES’S new solar farm could quadruple in size under plans to provide more green energy for council buildings.

The £1.2m solar farm on the former St Michael’s Golf Course opened in October last year, generating power for both the national grid and the nearby DCBL Stadium.

But Halton Council is now eyeing a more ambitious £10m scheme that would expand the solar farm’s capacity and build a private “microgrid” that would carry electricit­y from St Michael’s to the council offices on Kingsway, the new leisure centre on Moore Lane and the council’s depot on Lower House Lane.

As well as providing power for the three buildings, a report due to be considered by the council’s executive board next week suggests energy from the solar farm could also enable the electrific­ation of council minibuses, refuse collection vehicles and vans.

The report proposes installing 49 electric vehicle chargers at the Lower House Lane Depot to power vehicles parked there overnight, along with another 19 chargers at the new leisure centre.

The report said: “The scheme will bring back into use a council asset that has been unused for some years and is unsuitable for major developmen­t. It will contribute to the council’s targets to reduce carbon emissions.”

The St Michael’s solar farm currently has a capacity of 1MW, which the council is now proposing to increase to 3.95MW while also installing 900kw of rooftop solar panels on its buildings.

This would provide the extra capacity needed to power the four buildings and electrify the council’s fleet of vehicles, while also enabling some power to be sold to the national grid.

In order to pay for the scheme, Halton Council is hoping to secure a grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority that would meet 50% of the costs, with the council paying the other 50%.

As well as reducing carbon emissions, in line with its declaratio­n of a climate emergency in 2019, the scheme would further cut the council’s electricit­y bills and even generate income through selling power to the national grid.

Documents attached to the executive board report suggest the scheme could pay for itself over the course of 20 years.

The executive board is expected to approve a bid for funding from the combined authority today (Thursday, February 25).

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