Innovative renewable energy project in Cambridgeshire hits major milestone

A project that will transform a Park & Ride site in Cambridgeshire into a renewable energy generator has hit a major milestone. 

Cambridgeshire County Council has been granted planning permission to build a Smart Energy Grid at the site in St Ives, which will see a solar car port system generate electricity.

Solar panels will be installed on canopies above the cars to generate electricity and used to power highly efficient LED lighting, support electric vehicle charging while additional energy will be stored and sold to local customers.

The pilot project, which is an amalgamation of innovative and novel technologies, will be three times larger than the largest solar carport in the country if built, and if successful will be rolled out to sites around the county.

 Cllr Josh Schumann, the County Council’s Commercial & Investment Committee chairman, said: “This is a significant milestone. St Ives Park & Ride is a great asset, next to the guided bus and the town centre to pilot a Smart Energy Grid, the first of this scale in the country. This innovative type of technology is part of many projects the council is looking at to develop its assets to reduce costs and generate income to support our services.

“We expect this project and its concept of generating, storing and selling energy locally to be widely replicated and become business as usual in the future.”

The County Council has partnered with Bouygues Energies and Services to design, develop and deliver the project. They bring their specialist energy engineering skills and construction expertise to deliver this innovative scheme.

Miles Messenger, Energy Engineering Manager for Bouygues said: “The success of this project is achieved through the integration of renewable energy technology with smart energy distribution. The project demonstrates how smart micro-grid solutions can be used to help address current and future energy challenges. Renewable energy will charge electric vehicles and serve local energy consumers. We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Cambridgeshire County Council on this exciting scheme.” 

The County Council is also working closely with government, the town council, UK Power Networks and businesses to help make this scheme work as a model for the future.

Securing European Regional Development funds for 50 per cent of the £3million project are essential to the project going ahead. If the bid is successful, the County Council will invest the other half. Over time, the aim is to recoup the investment through sale of electricity.

Great Paxton Primary School has been reaping the rewards of smart energy after signing up to a pilot programme designed to reduce energy consumption in 2014.  Bouygues Energies & Services delivered solar panels and fitted new LED lighting throughout the schools in 2015 along with new insulation, heating controls and a new boiler.

In the first full year since installation, the school has halved the cost of its electricity and gas bills and has generated income of over £4,000 - representing a saving of 90% in annual energy cost.  

Headteacher Lee Frost said: “It’s been a huge success. After one year we are cash positive and our electricity and gas bills have halved. We have generated income and reduced our carbon footprint but most importantly, we have provided a better environment for our children to learn in. With the savings made we are in a position to provide more for our pupils.”

Cambridgeshire County Council supports the schools energy programme through providing loans or managed service arrangements from its Local Energy Investment Fund. The aim is to help schools plan for the future, upgrade their energy assets and manage their energy bills. Currently, 41 schools have signed up to the programme, of which 24 have completed their installation and are reaping the benefits of reduced energy costs. More schools will receive their energy measures during the summer break. 

The next phase of the schools programme is now being developed. If your school is interested joining, please contact us on [email protected]