Solar shines on as farm funds continue to support services
07 Aug 2018
One of the largest local authority owned solar farms in the UK has generated more than £1.3million of income in its second year.
Forest Heath District Council invested close to £14.5 million to acquire the 12.4MW solar farm at Toggam Farm in Lakenheath in 2016. The purchase was backed unanimously by members of the Council and was based on a 25-year- independently produced model which indicated how the solar farm is likely to perform.
Just as in its first year, the solar farm has performed marginally better than expected.
Figures for the 12 months to the end of July show that it generated 12,258MWh slightly above the 11,649 that had been estimated. That electricity sold on and into the National Grid, is enough to power around 3,300 homes and offset the Carbon Dioxide emissions from 1,500 cars. It has also helped Forest Heath establish itself as a carbon neutral council.
All of that has helped create £1.3 million of income. After taking into account the operating costs and recouping some of the capital used to buy the solar farm (in case the Council needs to invest in other things) that has meant it has generated £372,300 towards the funding of Council services, compared to a predicted £330,000.
Cllr Stephen Edwards, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance at Forest Heath District Council, said: “I am proud of this investment and what it will help us achieve on behalf of our communities for many years to come. The business case for investing in the solar farm looked at independent data on how it was likely to perform, and it was this that gave councillors of all political persuasion, the confidence to vote in favour of the investment. What we are now seeing is that the solar farm is performing exactly how we said it would.
“More importantly, it has taken capital, which can’t be used to simply prop up the costs of our day to day services as eventually it would run dry, and it has created a decent level of annual income – income which we know will rise significantly over the years. By year 10 it will reach approximately £700,000 – a net return of around five per cent after running costs and the repayment of our capital investment has been taken into account. That money in turn will help toward funding the everyday public services that we provide and that we know our residents and businesses hold dear.”
At the moment the project is for 25 years but the Council can look to extend beyond that nearer the time. The income generated comes from a mix of selling electricity into the National Grid and income guaranteed from the Government for a 20-year-period though Renewable Obligation Certificates.
For anybody interested in seeing how the solar farm is performing, the Council publishes an update on the amount of electricity generated each month. Visit www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/solarfarm