SOLAR panels could be fitted to thousands of council homes in Wrexham at a cost of nearly £30 million.
The ambitious 25-year project – among the first of its kind in the UK – would lead to massive savings on power bills for tenants and drastically cut the borough’s carbon emissions.
About 3,000 council houses could benefit if members of Wrexham Council’s executive board give their go-ahead to the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday and if given the green light the scheme could be up and running by next spring.
Jonathan Edwards, the council’s service development manager in charge of the project, said the panels, which absorb sunlight and turn it into cheap electricity, would be installed on the roofs of 3,000 council homes. This is only about a quarter of the council’s total housing stock of 11,500 because the panels work best when fitted to properties facing south.
There would be further installations on other council buildings such as town centre offices, schools and community centres.
Tenants with panels fitted would benefit from cheaper electricity, saving £200-£300 – or 40 per cent – on their annual energy bills.
Wrexham’s carbon footprint would also be significantly reduced.
Executive board members will have to decide who does the installation work. If the council itself takes care of the work it would have to borrow £28 million to cover the initial outlay. But over 25 years there would be a net income of about £25 million as the authority would receive a fixed income for every kilowatt of power generated under the government’s feed-in tariff scheme.
If a private company does the installation there would be no outlay but no income for the council.
Council leader, Cllr Aled Roberts, said: “This is the most exciting project I have come across in my time with the council. We estimate we could save one million tons of carbon a year from it.
“It not only means we would get a significant income but also that our tenants would get a significant reduction in their energy bills. I think it is a win, win situation.”
Mr Edwards said a pilot installation of the solar panels was already up and running and if approval was given by the board other trials could be launched between now and next March.
Cllr Roberts said he could not say whether the panels might be bought from the Sharps factory in Llay, which specialises in their manufacture, as the council would have to follow its usual procurement procedures.
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas has welcomed the plans which he said will help reduce the local authority’s energy use directly, and provide a further bonus thanks to the feed-in tariff.
The tariff means that as well as helping to reduce the council’s fuel bills, energy produced by the solar panels can also be sold to the National Grid and produce a profit for the council.
Mr Lucas said: “It will benefit Wrexham taxpayers by both cutting the council’s energy bills and by adding cash to its coffers. And expanding the use of solar power can only help secure jobs in what is a growing green industry.”