Renewable energy still faces obstacles

Eastbourne Borough Council is to invest in a solar power project
Eastbourne Borough Council is to invest in a solar power project

A MULTI-MILLION pound renewable energy project is looming but there are still obstacles in the way.

Eastbourne Borough Council is gearing up to invest £18.6 million in a solar power project which will help cut the town’s carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.

If the scheme is successful it could see a £40 million return over a 25-year period.

But the findings of a government review into high subsidies paid out to large-scale renewable energy schemes could cast serious doubt over the council’s plan.

Plans are already under way but energy initiatives officer Nick Adlam said the plan will not be given the green light unless the council is guaranteed a lucrative return.

“Even though cabinet has approved it in principle, no money is going to be applied for until all the risks have been ticked off,” he said.

Yesterday (March 17), firms were invited to Sussex Downs College to see if the contract can be agreed locally – installation costs alone are expected to reach £3 million.

Solar panels will be fitted to the roofs of willing council house tenants and other council-owned properties.

Residents will get free energy and the council will skim-off the feed-in tariff.

Each council house could generate just short of £58,000 a year and if all 4,770 homes take up the offer the council could reap close to £28 million a year, according to council figures

Council leader David Tutt said, “It is no exaggeration to say decision makers across the UK are keeping a watching brief on how this scheme develops in our town.”

But all this assumes most tenants will want to take part, the scheme can avoid the looming threat of cuts to the feed-in tariff and, most importantly, a very tight timescale. Mr Adlam said, “If we pull it off, and it’s a very challenging timetable but blimey we’ve got to give it our best shot, Eastbourne is in a very strong position.”

The council hopes to give plans the go-ahead in May, install the first panels in July and complete the project by March 2012.