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Cambridgeshire County Council, in partnership with EQUANS (formerly known as Bouygues Energies & Services Ltd) is delivering an innovative renewable energy project at the St Ives Park & Ride site. The Smart Energy Grid project consists of a 1MW (Megawatt) solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed on carports above the majority of the car park. This provides power to the electric vehicle charging infrastructure and a private supply to a local customer. The project will increase local renewable energy generation and enable residents to charge their electric vehicle whilst they utilise the transport links provided by the Park & Ride. It will also generate an income stream for the County Council.

The £4million micro-grid project is part-funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (formerly known as Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government) through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

Smart energy grid logos
  • 1MW solar photovoltaic system – equivalent of 250 average domestic solar installations
  • 237kW of battery storage
  • 10 x 22kW electric vehicle chargers
  • Private wire to a local business to supply them with renewable energy
  • 27GWh of clean energy forecast to be generated over 30 years
  • 5.5GWh of clean energy forecast to be supplied to electric vehicles over 30 years – equivalent to 18-22 million miles
  • Saving 15,025 tonnes of carbon emissions over 30 years, contributing to Cambridgeshire’s goal of Net Zero by 2045.
SIPR 1
Design image of cars under solar panel car ports

Project Update – April 2024

The car park remains partially open. The microgrid infrastructure has been installed on the Park & Ride site. Our contractor, Equans, is currently undertaking comprehensive final checks to assure the quality and safety of the installation, prior to returning the area to public use.

Our contractors have told us:

"Quality assurance has been performed throughout the design and installation of the Microgrid project and continues to be a key priority at this time. We are working as quickly as possible to complete this exercise. It is, however, possible that some remedial work may be necessary and, should such a scenario arise, it is likely that the works will be undertaken prior to return to public use. This is to avoid any future need to close the site.

We expect to be in a position to provide clarity on the timescales for reopening the site shortly. We recognise the impact the reduced area for parking is causing to users of the Park & Ride service. Rest assured, our focus is on safely returning the site as quickly as possible, to bring this ground-breaking project into full operation for the community’s benefit.”

Electric vehicle chargers

"Ten up to 22kW electric vehicle chargers have been installed as part of the Smart Energy Grid project. More information about how to use the chargers, the price of charging and mechanisms will be made public prior to the chargers being made available for use."

Low Carbon Business Support Programme

Alongside the project, Cambridgeshire County Council in partnership with Deyton Bell and Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) ran a Low Carbon Business Support Programme from April 2022 to September 2023. The programme offered support to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) looking to take their first steps to reduce their carbon emissions. It also offered support to those who have already started their low carbon journey through 1:1 support workshops, seminars and show case events. The programme concluded in September 2023. It successfully provided support to thirty five local businesses.

As part of the Low Carbon Business Support Programme, a live show case event was held on the 23 May 2023 at The Burgess Hall, St Ives, Cambridgeshire. The event was attended by several SMEs who participated in the programme, companies specialising in supporting the low carbon journey and our delivery partner, EQUANS. The event gave attendees the opportunity to network. Presentations were given by EQUANS, Cambridgeshire County Council and PECT. The event concluded with a visit to the St Ives Park & Ride to view the progress made to date.

Testimonials

“One of the best training courses we have been on and this will help the 360 Group reduce Carbon emissions path going forward.” 360 Coms Ltd.

“I found the six sessions really informative and well-structured. There was a lot of detail in there but it always felt engaging and manageable. The small group size meant any questions could be answered quickly where relevant to the group or followed-up afterwards if not.” Hunts Forum

“The programme has helped us take our sustainability to the next level for our stakeholders, customers and for our workforce. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn and meet new people.” Walters

Landing page of Low Carbon business support website

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Frequently asked questions 

In 2017, members approved a Corporate Energy Strategy. It promotes using council assets to expand local clean energy generation and develop alternative streams of revenue. The strategy follows nearly 100 successful projects in energy efficiency and renewable energy, including Triangle Solar Farm operational since 2017. Currently the delivery of North Angle Solar Farm and Babraham Road Park and Ride Smart Energy Grid are underway.

The project has been under development since 2016, with planning permission granted in July 2017.

The energy generated by the solar carports will supply all the electrical infrastructure on site. This includes street lighting, electric vehicles chargers, CCTV and other electrical equipment. Excess energy generated by the solar carports is sent to the battery storage system or exported to the grid.

A solar carport is a covered parking area with a canopy made from solar PV panels. They are designed to ensure the Park & Ride site retains full car parking capacity, whilst benefitting from renewable energy generation. The carports also provide shade and protection for the cars parked underneath them.

The battery storage installed on site will allow the excess energy generated by the solar carports to be stored and used at times where the carports are not generating sufficient electricity to meet the demand from the electrical equipment on site. 

The Smart Energy Grid has a connection to the national grid which means electricity can be drawn from it at times where the solar panels are not generating enough electricity to meet on site demand (for example at night). This will ensure that the electrical equipment on site such as electric vehicles chargers, CCTV and street lighting is still able to operate.

EQUANS was selected after an OJEU (Official Journal if the European Union) compliant competitive tendering process run by the Council under the RE:FIT 2 Framework. 

For all users of the Park & Ride site, they will have solar carports to park under. This will provide some shelter from heat during summer months and protection from rain and hail stones. Owners of electric vehicles will also be able to charge their car whilst parked in the allocated electric vehicle charging spaces.

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 was completed, it assessed the amount and duration of the reflection of light on surrounding homes, businesses, drivers on the ground and aircraft pilots overhead.

It accounted 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 recommended we use 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 use of solar carports ensures that no additional land is required, which in turn also reduced the localised ecological impact of the project. Additional landscaping, the installation of wood piles and planting of trees and hibernaculum has been undertaken to improve biodiversity net gain.