Chester Community Energy Ltd (CCEL) has successfully commissioned two more solar PV installations at Christleton and Neston Sports Centres. Both projects are the result of partnerships with CWAC, Brio Leisure and local electrical contractor, Genfit Ltd. The occasion was marked at Christleton Sports Centre by visits from Chester MP, Chris Matheson and CWAC councillors Richard Beacham and Matt Bryan, who all enthused about the projects and how they contribute to sustainable energy provision. Others present were Mark Swaffield of Brio Leisure, Dave Houston and Melanie Grant of Genfit Ltd and Graham Booth, Matt Clegg and Joanne Sparke of CCEL.
Chris Matheson MP, an advocate of community based enterprises, said “I am concerned that we are not making nearly enough progress in terms of sustainability and responses to the global climate crisis, but any response that we can achieve is better than no response and often it will be the local solutions such as this solar power project that will make a difference”.
Matt Bryan, who leads CWAC’s climate emergency taskforce, was also upbeat about collaborating with the voluntary sector. He said “Your scheme has probably been the best that we have seen in Cheshire. You have managed to roll out three now, we’ve had Northgate, here and in Neston, which was completed yesterday. So what we want to do is build on your experience of actually delivering the schemes, because at the moment the process is quite piecemeal and there are always problems with individual sites. What we want to do is take your expertise and knowledge and create some kind of plan and guide for other people in groups from different areas”.
Graham Booth speaking on behalf of Stephen Savory, who project managed the schemes for CCEL said “The successful installation of the schemes was the culmination of 12 months of preparation, planning and fund raising work carried out mainly by volunteers at minimal cost. I would like to thank all of our partners who have been brilliant from the start, with a special mention for Genfit Ltd who have installed both projects within 9 working days and our elected representatives who attended today and continue to support our work”.
Both projects have installed capacity of 59.9 kilowatts peak (kWp) and are predicted to generate 48,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in the first year, with a one percent annual decrease in output over the 25 year life of the solar panels. The saving in CO2 over the life of the project is estimated to be 560 tonnes based on the present electricity generating mix. The solar panels work by transferring some of the energy in light to electrical energy and operate completely pollution free. They require only one inspection per year just to check the system over but as there are no moving parts there is no ongoing maintenance. All the electricity can be used by the sports centres, who purchase the electricity from CCEL under a power purchase agreement. This saves the centres significant costs as the price per unit is much lower than the grid price paid to their electricity supplier. The income from the centres, plus a small feed in tariff subsidy, provides an income for CCEL of approx. £7,000 per year for each project to CCEL.
Any surplus from the business is used by CCEL to invest in future projects and provide a community benefit fund to local small voluntary groups and charities. CCEL has awarded grants totalling £6,000 in the last 2 years to community based organisations to reduce their energy use and costs. It is also introducing a scheme to replace old lighting in public buildings with LED lighting which saves at least 50% on power. The scheme provides the full cost of the new lighting which is then paid back over several years from the savings in electricity use. Further information is available on the CCEL website – www.chestercommunityenergy.org.uk.