Solar panels plan for south Norfolk homes

Housing association tenants will benefit from cheaper heating bills thanks to a new �7m project to install solar panels on the roofs of 1,000 homes in South Norfolk.

Saffron Housing Trust, which is based in Long Stratton and owns over 4,600 homes mostly in South Norfolk, says the scheme will reduce fuel poverty in the area and provide jobs for local businesses, while benefiting the environment.

Saffron Housing Trust's chief executive Adam Ronaldson said: 'Saffron continues to demonstrate its clear commitment to exploring alternative energy sources and is delighted to be taking the lead with this major �7m investment in Norfolk. The pilot projects in our houses and offices have shown how much energy can be generated by sunshine.'

Those houses to have photo-voltaic panels installed have been selected for their suitability to the project. To be effective the panels must be installed upon south-facing roofs of the appropriate size, which are not obstructed or overshadowed by large trees or other buildings. Those residents whose homes are suitable are set to benefit from an estimated �125 reduction in their electricity bills each year.

The project has been piloted on two Saffron homes, one in Bunwell and one in Newton Flotman. Gerry Tubby, from Newton Flotman, one of the tenants in the pilot project, said: 'It is great to be in a building with PV panels – we feel we are doing our bit to save energy. No drawbacks, just cheaper electricity bills'.

The project will also take advantage of the government's feed-in scheme, the panels will be attached to the National Grid in return for a fixed, tax free income for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated, even if it is used by the household. The income produced through the scheme will be reinvested by Saffron Housing Trust into alternative energy conservation measures for those houses which are unsuitable for the project.

Eastern Procurement Consortium, which represents a number of social housing providers in the region including Saffron, has awarded the contracts for installing the panels to a Norwich-based firm, Cookes Heating, and Avonside Renewables, based in Nottingham.

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Kris Daynes of Cookes Heating said: 'This is a high-profile green project which will allow us to employ more local staff in Norfolk benefiting both the local economy and Saffron tenants'.

The process of installing the photo-voltaic panels will be started in mid-April and is due to be completed within the next year.