Forest Heath District Council has purchased 12 MW local authority-owned solar farm at Toggam Farm in Lakenheath, UK
The District Council has completed the purchase of Greenheath Energy Ltd, the owner of the solar facility for £14.5 million (US$19 million) with the intention of using the revenue to help fund public services.
The 12.4 MW Toggam solar farm in Lakenheath (Suffolk) is the largest local authority-owned solar farm in the UK. The solar farm stands on 17.5 hectares and is made up of 47,748 panels, each measuring 1.6 by 1m and weighing 20 kg.
According to sources, after the capital outlay has been recouped, the investment will generate at least £300,000 in the first year, rising to £700,000 per year after ten years (of the 25 year project) in part through selling on the electricity generated to the National Grid.
The purchase has been made using capital – under local Government finance rules, councils are not allowed to use capital to plug annual funding gaps as eventually the money would simply disappear. Instead they can use the money to invest in projects which generate an annual income.
The Council assessed the project on the basis of borrowing the finance – however based on current five year spending plans, this is unlikely in the short to medium term.
Lawyers from the Eversheds Clean Energy Group, one of the leading specialist international clean energy and sustainability teams, advised Forest Heath District Council in relation to its conditional acquisition of the 12.4MW solar farm. This involved detailed grid, regulatory and procurement advice in addition to deploying construction, real estate and corporate specialists.
Cllr Stephen Edwards, the council's cabinet member for resources and performance said:
"The way councils are financed is changing – our main Government grant will be scrapped by around 2020 and council tax doesn’t cover as much as people think. This means we have to look at new ways of investing to make money to pay for services"
"In the future, the solar farm could provide energy to West Suffolk councils’ offices and our leisure centres, helping us and our partners to save money on energy costs on top of the income it will bring in, while further down the line there may also be opportunities to benefit our communities as well, although this is dependent on the energy market."
Thomas Clayton, developer and director of Greenheath Ltd said:
“We are delighted to announce the completion of the purchase of Greenheath Energy Ltd by Forest Heath District Council. The solar farm is up and running, producing renewable energy and will now be generating income to assist the council in continuing to provide excellent services.”