CARBON NEUTRAL: Bridgwater solar farm
More than £3M of taxpayers’ money could be invested in a new solar farm in Bridgwater to generate income for front-line services.
Somerset County Council has published details of its capital programme for the coming year ahead of setting its annual budget later in February.
As part of its programme, the council is looking at investing in a new solar park in the Saltlands area of Bridgwater, not far from the town’s household recycling centre and community woodland.
The council claims the investment would generate a steady commercial return and help to meet its aim to become carbon-neutral by 2030.
Details of the proposal were published as part of wider budget proposals ahead of a virtual cabinet meeting on Monday (February 8).
A spokesman said: “This is an ‘invest to save’ bid which would also contribute significantly to our aspiration to become carbon-neutral by 2030.
“There is also an opportunity take advantage of interest by a utility company which is looking to buy energy.
“The Saltands site is council-owned land, and the energy grid provider is making some grid upgrades which would make phase one (‘Saltlands East’) viable without significant additional grid upgrades required by the council.”
The site lies to the north of Saltlands Avenue, near Bridgwater’s household recycling centre and the Wessex Water processing facility.
The land to the east of the Wessex Water facility is surrounded by the River Parrett on three sides, with the land to the west being bordered by the Saltlands Community Wood near the recycling centre.
If the proposals are approved, the council could spend £3,086,200 on the new facility – of which £2,855,200 would be spent in the next 12 months and the remaining 231,000 by April 2023.
No planning application for a solar farm has yet been submitted, either to the county council or to Sedgemoor District Council, which is the local planning authority.
Enso Energy, a photovoltaic company based in Dursley in Gloucestershire, said on its website that was “currently exploring opportunities” to construct a new solar farm and battery storage facility in Bridgwater.
The company listed TA7 8QN as a nearby postcode for the new facility – which would place it near the Willow Man sculpture close to the M5 – but said the precise site had not yet been set in stone.
A spokesman said: “Our plans for Bridgwater are currently at an early stage, we have yet to determine a precise site.
“As soon as we have determined a site, we will inform the local community through a public consultation event and by way of this website.
“It is estimated that the Bridgwater solar farm would have an export capacity up to 49.9MW, which will produce an estimated 76,000MWh. This is equivalent to providing enough power to meet the annual electrical needs of approximately 20,000 homes.
“Our plans also include the construction of a battery storage system that will supply electricity to the local electricity network at times of peak energy demand, and help make the renewable energy output of the solar farm a secure and reliable part of the UK energy supply.”
Somerset County Council’s budget proposals (including council tax levels) will be debated by the full council virtually on February 10 from 10am.
Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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