Travelling west from London to a field for a party sounded a lot like a free ticket to Glastonbury but it turned out be a lot longer lasting! I was heading up the City of London Corporation’s team at the official opening of the South Farm Solar Park in Dorset.
The City Corporation created a radical costed and innovative Climate Action Strategy two years’ ago which commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions in its own operations by 2027 and aiming to become net zero across its investment and supply chain by 2040, whilst also supporting this for the whole Square Mile by the same year.
As part of that strategy the City Corporation agreed in 2020 a £40 million deal with international energy provider Voltalia to buy all the electricity produced by a new solar farm for the next 15 years. This has now been achieved. I was delighted to visit and see it in operation on a very sunny day. It has over 91,000 panels ensuring that the site will have a capacity of 49.9 megawatts – equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of approximately 35,000 people.
The facility has been providing over half of the City Corporation’s electricity from January 2023. The deal will increase the green energy supply, has no reliance on taxpayer funding, and helps the transition quickly away from fossil fuels.
The deal agreed under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a long-term contract between an electricity generator and the customer – it is the first of its kind in the UK to be signed directly between a renewables producer and a governing authority.
When you next look around the City you will see the iconic landmarks that the City owns and manages powered by renewable electricity - that includes Tower Bridge, Hampstead Heath and the Barbican Centre.
Whilst some are sceptical of these deals that use up arable land and may overwhelm a local area this transaction has been carefully calibrated and should benefit everyone - from the environment to local people. Throughout its construction, Voltalia has invested more than £1,000,000 in local supplier partnerships – all based within 25 miles of the park. Voltalia’s local supplier investment at South Farm Solar Park has totalled over £4 million across the Southwest to date.
I was pleased to have helped spearhead the City’s Climate Action Strategy back during the dark days of the pandemic and then been able to see the scheme operating at 100% capacity on the sunny day in June when we visited.
This scheme is a pioneering blueprint by the City Corporation for local authorities across the UK, cutting carbon emissions and fossil fuel use, and giving cheaper, more secure energy, protected from the price volatility of energy markets.