Along with hundreds of Local Authorities across the UK, you have declared a climate emergency. You have probably put a date to your Net Zero goal. Now, how do you turn this into an action plan? Developing new renewable energy projects, and solar PV in particular, is a cost-effective way of delivering significant carbon reductions, but before going out to the market or embarking on a major procurement exercise, make sure you’ve done your homework. This early work – at little or no cost - will pay dividends in ensuring your energy generation or storage project has the best chance of success.
1. Know your assets!
Firstly, if you have not done so already, get to know your assets! Many Local Authorities are asset rich, already owning land and buildings that are well suited for renewable energy projects. These will include large rooftops and car parks with high electricity consumption on site, or nearby. Larger areas of low-grade farmland which are not suitable for commercial development can make good hosts for ground mounted solar farms. Smaller pieces of land could be the perfect site for a battery storage facility. Make a shortlist of potential sites that fit any of these criteria. Also consider the availability of such assets for renewable energy projects over the longer term such as potential for sale or included in other development projects.
2. It’s all about the grid
Before spending any money, you can request a free “budget quote” for your shortlisted sites from the relevant district network operator (DNO), which runs the local electricity grid. This will give an an indication of the cost and therefore viability of connection to the grid in the first instance. This takes between two and four weeks and will give you a good idea of the viability for your particular site. Without an affordable, accessible grid connection there can be no project, so this is always top of the to do list. Although the “budget quote” service is provided free by the DNO it is important to ask the right questions with regard to the site specifics so it is advisable to have expert support when engaging with the DNO.
3. Is it feasible?
It’s now time to take an overview of other relevant considerations such as the planning aspects of the project. The importance of this stage cannot be underestimated and most Local Authorities outsource this work to specialist companies via a procurement portal.
A feasibility study should cover key planning, technical and financial aspects of a project, and also the commercial options for moving the project to the next stage. A good quality study will highlight any key issues and the appropriate way to address these (for instance, through a pre-app discussion on a planning issue or a more detailed search on utility infrastructure.)
The next step may be identifying an appropriate development partner, planning consultancy or investment option. The knowledge gained from understanding your assets, the local grid network and the feasibility of the project will ensure you are in the best place as a well-informed client to decide on the next steps for your renewable energy or storage project.
Public Power Solutions is a wholly owned company of Swindon Borough Council. We have been working with Local Authorities over the past six years offering consultancy and development services. Our team of in-house experts can manage every aspect of your project from inception to completion, or provide support in specific areas you may be lacking in-house. We can also prepare your tender and manage the procurement on our OJEU compliant DPS.
Get in touch with us to discuss how we can support you.