Thursday, 27 October 2011
Later today Boston Borough Council’s Corporate and Community Committee makes a major decision on whether to switch from hot air to solar energy as a source of power.
It is being recommended to rush to spend an estimated £140,000 before the end of March on ordering and fitting solar photovoltaic systems for the roof of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre – although the potential exists to use the system on the roof of the Municipal Buildings and Boston Crematorium as well … which would bring the costs to £338,000.
The deadline for the race to spend is due to Government incentives to invest in renewable energy and the over-turning the ban on councils selling green energy to the National Grid. It is necessary because a guaranteed payment for power generated ends on March 31st next year - after which payments will be reduced.
Rates have also been cut for big projects, so the recommendation is to come in under the cut off point of 50 kilowatts.
Although there is money to be saved and made through schemes like this, the speed at which everything has to be done is worrying.
In the best financial case, the profit for all three schemes over 25 years would be £3,910,000 and would pay back the investment in around seven and a half years. However, the more likely case estimate is for profits of £1,752,624 which would cover costs in around eight and a half years.
Before installation on any of the roofs, checks will have to be made to see if they would need re-covering. Quotations for that come to just over £35,000.
But initial assessments show that the roofs in question are in good condition and would have a life of at least 15 to 20 years.
“It is therefore debateable whether this investment is required,” says the report.
A “mini tender exercise” is currently in progress which will further inform the installation costs for each site.
If the signs are right, then the dash to spend cash begins.
The report recommends that the installation is fully financed by the council and completed within the current financial year, subject to satisfactory surveys and that, in view of the tight timetable, officers be authorised to prepare and submit planning applications for the preferred sites.
Again, because of the tight timetable the report says it might be considered “prudent” to concentrate on the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex, which would provide the greatest return.
However, sections of the roof there were built at different times – and the main pool roof might need replacing in 12 years, whist the building itself is said to have 25 years’ life left.
A worst case scenario involving replacement of the main pool roof in or around 2024, says removal and reinstallation solar panels would be a comparatively minor job - and the contract and subsidies would not be invalidated by a ‘break’ in generation.
However, a interesting line for observers of the Moulder complex’s chequered history adds: “If the council decided instead to demolish the facility and sell the site, it would not incur any financial penalties from the Government and by that time we would be circa three to four years beyond the payback period anyway.”
We don’t know about you, but there do seem to be an awful lot of ifs and buts attached to an idea that demands quick decisions to spend such large sums of money in such a short space of time, and we hope that if the recommendation that the cabinet and full council support the installation is approved, that some robust questions are not only asked by councillors – but that all answers are thoroughly challenged before any decision is taken.
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