Saturday, 31 October 2009

Solar Energy in Huddersfield

Huddersfield is a great place but I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would regard it as the solar energy capital of the UK. Yet it undoubtably is.

The first solar panels were for water heating and were installed in Council Housing in Kirklees on Tolson Crescent in Dalton in 1995. 8 properties were helped but in retrospect it was a poorly conceived project and I was responsible. 6 of the properties were flats with pensioners living in them with very low hot demand and as the Estate Management Officer at the time I sourced funding from Kirklees Environment Unit to get them installed. Half the Councillors in Kirklees at the time traipsed through the tenants houses feeling their sun sourced hot water. Another 7 properties were installed the following year at St John's Avenue in Newsome (pictured) as Labour's attempt to show there was no need to vote Green. As I remember I was specifically not required for the photocall on that occasion. Though I was the project manager I was also the Green Party's Campaign Organiser and that didn't endear me to the Labour administration of the time.

There followed a bit of a lull until 2000 when we established the Renewable Energy Fund and since then it has been project after project. In Newsome Ward alone we have a multitude of projects including Primrose Hill Solar village, around 120 properties with solar PV and some solar thermal, Castle Grange Residential Home with 10kWp of solar PV, the new Hillside School with a range of renewables, Croftlands with 30 or so properties with PV, Civic Centre 3 with 18kWp on the roof, Lowerhouses Junior and Infants also has a small pv system and not forgetting our solar street lights on Edale Avenue. With the RE-Charge scheme that we established for private householders taking off we have another 15 or so PV systems going in soon along with PV going in on the Edale Avenue sheltered block.

It is all exciting stuff and with the Clean Energy Cashback coming in next year we should be in for another boost. I have proposed a £5 million project to use the new feed in tariff to fund the capital outlay of purchasing and installing the photovoltaic panels. This will effectively mean we will be able to install as many solar panels on Council buildings as we like for free with no impact on the Council Tax. All we need now if for Government not too muck up the legislation and we will be fine. I also have to think of a name for the scheme. Ideas welcome.

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