Many people associate the small City of Norwich with its magnificent cathedral, Delia Smith or the newly promoted Premier League football team, Norwich FC. Why, then, would someone write an article about an increase in solar panels for this fine City?
The answer is simple. The scale and placement of the solar panels planned for Norwich is significant. They will be on such a scale, they will be noticeable by resident and tourist alike. It marks, I believe, Norwich’s shift into the 21st century. And, they are certainly not alone.
As a local solar panel installer, I’ve been following a particular local story with a lot of interest. Norwich City Council, being a local authority that has not privatized its housing stock. It has, therefore, decided to cover 5000 of its Council Houses in PV solar panels.
Despite the massive pressure to the City Council’s budget at the minute – there is a very strong business case for investing in solar panels.
In April 2010, the Labour government launched a scheme called the feed-in-tariffs. This was based on the hugely successful model that had been rolled out in other European countries. Basically, the feed-in-tariffs pay people who invest in renewable energy for the electricity they create and use. For solar energy, the rate is a very attractive 41.3p per KwH – which is about 4-5 times what most of us pay for our electricity from the grid. The money received is tax free and guaranteed for 25 years.
When the Conservative lead Coalition Government was formed in May 2010 they decided to continue the feed-in-tariffs and added to them by giving local authorities the permission to be part of the scheme. This has resulted in Councils like Norfolk and Cornwall entering the process of setting up their own energy services companies (ECSOs). For City Councils around the UK, we have seen the likes of Birmingham City Council commit to installing solar panels onto their entire housing stock.
Here in Norwich the Labour administration at City hall, partly influenced by a large number of Green Councilors (it currently has 15 – the second highest in the UK), has agreed to install solar systems on to 5000 houses! These would all be part of their housing stock. In addition to adding solar panels to their housing stock, the council intend to put solar panels on City hall and other council owned buildings.
The returns the Council expects to bring from this are between 8-10%. This is really significant, both in terms of how they can offset cuts, but also to the appearance of the City of Norwich.
For those of you who know Norwich, you’ll know the standing on Mousehold Heath offers a wonderful view of the City’s rooftops – over the next 24 months that site is set to change dramatically.
Justine Daly is a installer of Solar Panels in Norwich [http://www.connect-renewables.co.uk/solar-panels-norwich/].