solar panels

Torfaen councillors will be asked to stop plans to build a solar farm in Cwmbran because changes to the project by the contractor could lead to it making a loss.

In January 2020 councillors approved a proposal for the council to build its own solar farm on land in Ty Coch. A report says the project aimed to produce three megawatts of energy every year- ‘the equivalent to 21.15% of annual CO2 generated by the Council (equivalent to 982 homes) as well as give a net positive financial return’.

One procurement package was put together to give a single point of responsibility for the preferred contractor and reduce risks to the council.

Following a tender process, a contractor was agreed in June 2021 but this was ‘subject to all conditions being met’. The tender said the council would earn £2,231,068 over the 35 years of the project’s life, meaning an income of £63,744 per after costs (a rate of 6.09%).

A report says the contract was not signed as certain conditions had to be met by the contractor.

A report to councillors by Rachel Jowitt, chief officer, neighbourhoods, planning & public protection, now recommends the project is stopped with no further work after the contractor ‘proposed a significant variation to the project’.

Four reasons are listed to explain the variations in the contractor’s new proposal:

a) Did not comply with the approved planning application and biodiversity mitigation requirements;
b) Increased cost which whilst not exactly quantified due to the lack of information from the contractor was indicated to turn the project from a positive to a negative financial position;
c) Caused delays to the agreement with Western Power for grid connection; and
d) Made the project unviable to the Council from a delivery, financial and ecological perspective.

Officers took advice from the Welsh Government Energy Service who agreed the ‘council’s strategy was the appropriate one’. The report says there have been changes in the energy market and at the moment ‘small sites’ like Ty Coch are not ‘as attractive as they were’.

Councillors will discuss the report and make a decision on Tuesday 4 October 2022.

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