Solar panels put on top of historic Norwich city hall
Solar panels are set to be placed on the roof of City Hall, as the council looks to cut its energy costs and make money by selling electricity to the National Grid.
Norwich City Council's cabinet will next week be asked to agree to go ahead with the project to install the photo voltaic (PV) panels at a cost of �235,000.
The council, which has an annual electricity bill of around �110,000, says the panels will not only cut energy costs but will generate cash.
The power which is produced, but not used in City Hall itself, can be fed back into the grid through the government's Feed In Tariff scheme.
That scheme sees a payment for electricity produced, but also extra bonus payments for electricity which is exported into the grid.
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Officers say the project would pay for itself through income and energy savings within 13 years – but only if it is installed by the end of March next year, when the subsidies provided by the Feed In Tariff scheme will be changed.
They warned that failure to get the system up and running before then would mean the council would received 2.7p less per kilowatt hour.
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Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'This is a way in which we can lead by example when it comes to making a contribution to the environment.
'While a decision has yet to be made, we are very positive about this. This is a consequence of us finding new ways of working in a climate where we are having to make cuts. It is saving money, but will also generate income for the council.'
In February the opposition Green group on Norwich City Council tabled an amendment to the council's budget asking that �250,000 be drawn from the �5m capital fund to install panels at City Hall and other buildings. Officers said a scoping exercise had found City Hall was the most appropriate place to put the panels, because it used so much more energy compared to other council owned buildings.
The report by officers stated: 'City Hall is ideally suited for PV because it is flat and high and has a very good solar impact, with very little shade.'
As City Hall is a grade II* listed building, the council will need to apply for listed building consent before the panels can be installed.
Because of that, and the need to go out to tender for a company to install the system, work is unlikely to start for six months.
Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition Green group at City Hall, said: 'In the current climate, both financially and generally, we do need to take advantage of these schemes. 'The council cannot afford not to invest in them and right now, if they are to benefit fully from the Feed In Tariffs.
'It's an opportunity to make money and, of course, in the battle against climate change we need to create as much energy from renewable sources as possible.'
She added that, with the council trying to increase the eco-standards of new homes through the planning system, it was good to see the authority leading by example.
Meanwhile, a scheme to fit solar panels to the city's council homes is still being worked on.
Last October it emerged that up to 5,000 families across Norwich could benefit from free electricity if the scheme became a reality.
The council was hoping to sign a contract with a company prepared to to install photovoltaic cells on thousands of homes - which would mean free power in daylight hours for the people in those homes.
A decision on whether to progress with the City Hall solar panels scheme will be made at the cabinet meeting next Wednesday.
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