Babraham Road Park and Ride Smart Energy Grid

In partnership with Bouygues E&S Solutions Limited, our energy team is developing a highly innovative solar generation project for the Babraham Park & Ride site that includes off-grid energy sales to a local customer. This demonstrator project will generate up to 2.5MW of clean electricity which will provide an income stream for the county council, expand local renewable energy generation, and provide additional charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). This and other projects in development aim to overhaul Cambridgeshire’s energy landscape.

3D render aerial of the solar car ports
3D Render of the solar car ports. Courtesy of Bouygues E&S Solutions Limited and Prospus Group

The business case is based on selling energy to electric vehicle owners, a local customer and reducing on-site operating costs. The Re:fit 3 Framework is being used to provide guaranteed performance and significantly reduce the financial and performance risk to the Council. Under that framework, we are working with design and build contractor Bouygues E&S Solution Limited.

This project could pave the way for public transport to move away from fossil fuels, a known contributor to poor air quality, through providing a location to charge electric buses in the future.

Planning permission for the project was received in late 2020. The same team has been designing a similar project for the St Ives Park and Ride, on the northern end of the Guided Busway. These projects form part of a larger vision of smart energy grids around Cambridge’s transport network.

Once construction gets underway, work will be conducted in stages to keep as much of the car park open as possible. 

  • Project: 2.5MW Solar Farm plus battery energy storage
  • Timescales: planning permission received late 2020, construction 2022-2023
  • 54,000 MWh of energy generated over 25 years
  • Avoids the release of over 5,400 tonnes of CO2 over its life
  • Provides a self-powered solution saving on energy bills
  • Overcomes local energy grid constraints
  • Renewable power for on-site EV charging, attracting new customers
  • Supports local businesses and develops local supply chain - Integration of energy and transport solutions

Frequently asked questions 

About the project

We declared a Climate and Environment Emergency in May 2019 and our Climate  Change and Environment strategy was published in 2020. This project forms part of the actions to address this declaration. 

Prior to this, members approved a Corporate Energy Strategy in 2019 which promotes using our council assets to expand local clean energy generation and develop streams of revenue.

In partnership with Bouygues E&S Solution Limited, our Energy Investment Unit is developing a highly innovative solar generation project for the Babraham Park and Ride site with electric vehicle charging. The Smart Energy Grid Project aims to generate 2.5 MW of clean electricity to be exported directly to local businesses via new infrastructure, while excess electricity will be used to enable the park and ride site to provide energy for all on-site needs, such as lighting, CCTV cameras and electric vehicle charging.

This project is overseen by the council’s Environment and Green Investment Committee. The initial business case was brought to the Commercial and Investment Committee in May 2018 for approval. That paper also laid out the points at which the project would be brought back for periodic approvals.

In March 2021 the investment case was approved by Committee to progress with the next stage of the project and put contractual arrangements in place. Throughout development, the business case is also scrutinised by the Capital Program Board, chaired by the Council’s Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer.

The solar panels will be installed on car ports above the existing car parking. The uprights will fall every three car parking spaces, and are designed to retain the current parking capacity. Most of the site will be covered in double bay carports where the supports are located on the centreline of the rows of parking.

The project team spent several months in 2018 developing the concept and securing a development budget. In early 2019, we held sessions to talk to the Great Shelford Parish Council, local businesses and the community about the project. Feedback we collected at those sessions was used to shape the scheme design and documentation submitted to the planners in 2020. Planning approval for the project was granted in late 2021 and the detailed design and full business case was approved by the Environment & Sustainability Committee (now Environment and Green Investment committee).

Construction to start in Autumn 2022 and complete in Autumn 2023.

As part of the project, Cambridgeshire County Council installed a buried cable to a local customer.

This element of the work has been brought forward to tie in with other services being installed along Babraham Road. Collaborative works took place to provide the least amount of disruption to the surrounding area and reduce the volume of works along this road.

The buried cable is installed in the footpath/cycleway and verge along Babraham Road and Hills Road. Its location is shown on this page (see Climate Change and Energy Services Utilities category). If you are looking to do works in the area that involve excavating/digging, please run a (free) desktop survey before via Linesearch.

At present, the scheme will pay for itself within 14 years.  The business case will be refined over the course of project development. The project will only proceed if the economic business case is robust and advantageous to the Council.

For commuters to the site, once the project has been completed will have carports structures to park their vehicles under. These may provide some shelter from heat during summer months and some protection from rain. Additional electric vehicle chargers will be made available to cater for electric vehicle owners. We know car parking space is at a premium, so if approved, this construction project will be planned in phases to minimise the level of disruption where possible. More information on the phased construction plan is below. The Greater Cambridge Partnership team is designing additional permanent car parking for the undeveloped area of the site to the north of the bus entrance.

For nearby residents and businesses, there will be some unavoidable noise during construction. We have set out plans to mitigate nuisance as part of the planning process. We also acknowledge that installation will result in construction traffic, an estimate of the construction vehicle movements is included in our planning application. Similarly, we have set out plans to mitigate this impact to both local residents and road users as part of the planning process. During operation, there will be a limited amount of noise from the operation of cooling equipment within the electrical equipment area.

A noise assessment was prepared for the planning application. This assessment has shown “that the rated level of noise during the daytime period, when residents may be using garden areas, falls below the typical background sound level. During the night-time period when residents are reasonably expected to be inside, the rated level of noise within a habitable room falls below the internal noise criteria limit with a partially open window.” The noise assessment is publicly available on the planning portal

We recognise the importance of local historical landmarks, for example, the Gog Magog Hills, Wandlebury Country Park and Roman road. A visual impact assessment was conducted to ensure that this renewable energy project’s impact on the view to and from these landmarks is acceptably low. This document formed part of the planning application and is publicly available.

There is a stand of mature trees surrounding the site which will go some way to mask the development from points outside of the park and ride. It’s important to note that a formal study into the impact of any glint and glare from the installed panels was performed during the planning permission process.

Benefits of the project

The project offers multiple benefits. Overall, it reduces the carbon footprint of the asset by moving off grid-supplied electricity and onto low-carbon solar generation.  By expanding the provision of electric vehicle chargers, we encourage the purchase of electric vehicles, which helps to improve local air quality and supports the government’s goal of the electrification of transport. The project will also generate revenue to support Council services, such as Adult Social Care. 

Our initial proposal forms a 2.5MW solar PV car port system for the Babraham Park and Ride. For every megawatt (MW) of solar capacity installed, we will generate about 1,000 MWh per year. The design of the project is not static and is subject to change over the development period.

Mitigating impacts

The construction will be split into multiple phases. The first phase was the installation of cabling between the P&R and hospital site. The current phase involves works taking place on the P&R involving earthworks, installation of carports and electrical equipment over 2023.

Sections of the car park will also be closed and restricted in a phased approach to allow the site to continued at a limited use during construction. This will be organised to allow continued vehicular access to designated areas of the site.

As the solar modules are made from glass, they are reflective and this has the potential to cause nuisance. ‘Glint’ is a momentary flash of bright light whereas ‘glare’ is a continuous source of bright light. Published guidance shows that the intensity of reflections from solar panels are equal to or less than those from a body of water.

During the planning application process, a formal study of the “glint and glare” from the solar panels will be completed, which will assess the amount and duration of the reflection of light on surrounding homes, businesses, drivers on the ground and aircraft pilots overhead.

It will account for the position of the sun relative to the modules, as well as the angle of the modules, across the entire year. Out of the study, it may recommend steps we will need to take in our design to mitigate risk or discomfort, such as added screening, changes to the orientation and pitch, or using low reflection PV solar modules.

It should be noted that by design solar modules absorb light in order to generate electricity and as such seek to minimise their reflective nature.

The final report is available on the planning portal for public inspection.

During construction, we will need to close off sections of parking areas. The project team is aware that the site is reaching capacity now and understand the project will need to minimise the period of time the site operate with a reduced parking capacity. The Greater Cambridge Partnership team is designing additional parking on land at Babraham Park & Ride to provide up to an additional 136 spaces. Once operational, the carports are above the car parking spaces therefore there will be no long-term loss of car parking. Adequate space will be maintained for disabled parking spaces.

Some lighting columns will be removed as a result of installing the carports. The reasons are two-fold.

Firstly, the canopies will potentially block light for car park users, therefore under canopy lighting will be installed to provide adequate lighting and maintain security.

Secondly, some lighting columns may cause shading of the solar panels which would reduce energy generation. In this case, the columns may be lowered or repositioned. The design will be reviewed to confirm safe and adequate light levels are maintained. The under-canopy lighting will help to reduce light pollution, as they will have zero upward light emission.

In the future, as battery storage should be installed, there will be a small amount of noise from air conditioning used in the battery storage unit to maintain optimal operation of the equipment. The battery storage facility will feature suitable fire suppression systems, acoustic dampening and will be remotely monitored at all times to be consistent with the general noise level of a Park and Ride site. No radiation, electromagnetic fields or chemical emissions will be produced and suitable systems will be in place to minimise any potential environmental impacts.

Other questions

No, especially during low periods of sunlight in winter months. A grid connection will remain in place to ensure the Park and Ride will continue to operate as normal, no matter the time of the year or the availability of solar energy. The project is designed to achieve as high a level of renewable energy utilisation as possible while still maintaining the backup in place that a site such as this requires.

There will likely be a requirement in the planning permission that the system must be removed when no longer operating. We note that the solar panels should still be functioning at 80% efficiency after 25 years of operation.

Yes, the solar panels will require periodic cleaning to remove the occasional fouling and general debris build up, this cost will be included in the business case. Local companies have developed equipment specifically for this application, we’ll be in discussion with them during design development.

Bouygues Energies & Services Ltd was selected after an OJEU compliant competitive tendering process run by Cambridgeshire County Council under the Refit 3 Framework. The Refit Framework ensures best value for money to Cambridgeshire. Bouygues carries out the design and construction and the Council benefits by selling electricity. If approved, the County would borrow to fund the capital outlay from Public Works Loan Board.

In Cambridgeshire, Bouygues has developed and delivered energy projects at over 70 sites for County and other local authorities. For more information on other projects Bouygues has developed with Cambridgeshire County Council, please explore these pages further.