Proposals for Manchester City Council to buy its own solar farm, estimated to cost between £30m-£39m, to help cut its carbon emissions are set to move forward.
The authority’s Executive will be asked to give the green light for the council to enter into negotiations with companies developing solar photovoltaic facilities, also known as solar farms, when it meets on 19 January 2022.
Getting involved in large-scale renewable energy generation is something the authority is pursuing as part of its determination to play its part in tackling climate change.
Manchester City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 sets out to halve its direct carbon emissions by 2025 in support of the city’s goal to become zero carbon by 2038.
Under the plan, a carbon reduction of 7,000 tonnes a year, equating to almost half of the total saving by 2025, is being targeted through large-scale renewable energy generation.
Producing renewable energy directly would also improve energy security and give the council greater certainty over future costs, the authority said.
There are two potential options on the table, a 45.3W scheme in the south of England and two other schemes in the south, which would give a combined 58MW, with both options being of a scale which would meet the council’s requirements.
No suitable sites of the size required (around 100ha) have been identified in the Manchester or Greater Manchester areas.
The council said that further options could be considered as discussions move forward with other developers.
Any purchase of a solar farm would be funded through borrowing, which would be financed over the life of the asset from the reduced expenditure with other energy providers and potentially the generation of surplus power which could then be sold.
The alternative option is that of Power Purchase Agreements, which would involve the council purchasing renewable energy directly from a renewable energy source to help meet their carbon reduction targets.
Manchester City Council said this remains on the table as an 'insurance' policy, should the solar farm option not prove feasible.
However, at this stage, it is considered that purchasing a facility would offer greater benefits.
Commenting, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Councillor Tracey Rawlins said:
"The council's Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 sets out how we will halve our direct carbon emissions by 2025 as part of the wider push to make the city zero carbon by 2038.
"One of the key ways in which we intend to achieve this is through either generating our own renewable energy or buying energy directly from a renewable energy source.
"Owning our own solar farm would not only reduce our carbon emissions by thousands of tonnes a year, it also has the potential to reduce our energy costs over time and protect us from price rises in a volatile market.
"If the council's Executive agrees, the next step will be for us to enter into detailed negotiations for the potential purchase of a solar farm."