We have already successfully increased the energy efficiency of numerous properties and developed a large scale renewable energy generation project through investments of greater than £20 million. These projects will reduce CO2 emissions by over 1 million tonnes and produce savings of over £1.7 million per annum. Building on that success, we are developing a highly innovative solar PV project for a park and ride site that includes the use of battery storage and off-grid energy sales to a local customer.

As part of our exciting programme, this demonstrator will provide an income stream, expand local renewable energy generation, help develop local cleantech businesses, build resilience to local energy grid supply challenges, and provide charging points for electric vehicles (EVs) powered directly by renewable energy.

The Smart Energy Grid (SEG) Demonstrator Project plans to provide just under 1.0 MW of renewable electricity. This will enable the export of energy directly to a local business through a power purchase agreement, whilst battery storage is being used to enable the park and ride site to provide energy for all on-site needs, such as lighting, CCTV cameras and EV charging.

The Greater London Authorities’ Re:fit 2 Framework is being used to help provide guaranteed performance. A construction contract is in place with design and build contractor Bouygues Energies & Services.

Design image of cars under solar panel car ports
3D render of project. Image courtesy of Bouygues E&S UK Ltd.
  • 19,000MWh of energy generated over 25 years
  • Saving 2,500 tonnes of CO2 over 25 years
  • A self-powered solution, saving on energy bills
  • Fully renewable power for on-site EV charging
  • Eligible for support funding due to innovative nature
  • Supports local businesses and develops local supply chain
  • Integration of energy and transport solutions

Eligibility for government backed grant funding

This innovative demonstrator project is eligible for support through European Regional Development Funds to support increasing the number of small scale renewable energy schemes in England. The project aims to address a number of key issues preventing production of renewable energy and the demonstration and deployment of renewable energy technologies, including smart / off grid supply and energy storage. Planning permission was granted in July 2017. We hope to use the project and its learning to inform further capacity building towards facilitating the vision for 28% of Cambridgeshire’s energy being produced locally from renewables.

Logos of the European Union Regional Development Fund, Bouygues Energies and Services, and Cambridgeshire County Council

Frequently asked questions 

About the project

Members approved a Corporate Energy Strategy in 2017 which promotes using our council assets to expand local clean energy generation and develop streams of revenue. The strategy builds on from several dozen successful energy efficiency and renewable energy generation projects, as well as the construction of a 12 MW solar farm at Soham which went live in 2017. This is one project being explored on Council Estate at present.

These FAQs cover the clean energy project proposed at the St Ives Park and Ride, other projects are described elsewhere on our website.

In partnership with Bouygues Energies & Services, our Energy Investment Unit is developing a highly innovative solar generation project for the St Ives Park and Ride site that includes the use of battery storage and distribution of renewable energy to local customers. The Smart Energy Grid Project aims to generate 1 MW of clean electricity and feed it into on-site battery storage. This will enable the controlled export of electricity 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.

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.

The project has been under development since 2016, planning permission was granted in July 2017. We expect construction to start in 2021.

Bouygues Energies & Services was selected after an OJEU compliant competitive tendering process run by the Council under the Refit 2 Framework. The Refit Framework ensures best value for money to Cambridgeshire. Bouygues carries out the design and construction and we benefit by selling electricity.

In Cambridgeshire, Bouygues has developed and delivered energy projects at over 70 sites for us and other local authorities. These are projected to save over 9,000 tonnes of CO2, £1.9 million and 22GWh of energy every year.

Benefits of the project 

A 1MW solar PV car port system is planned for the St Ives Park and Ride. For every megawatt of solar capacity installed, we will generate about 1,000 megawatt hours.

There are a number of stakeholders for this project.

For commuters to the site, they will have carports to park under, which may provide some shelter from heat during summer months and protection from rain. Additional electric vehicle chargers would be made available to cater for electric vehicle owners.

For nearby residents, there will be some unavoidable noise during construction. We also acknowledge that installation will result in construction traffic. Similarly, we will set out plans to mitigate this impact to both local residents and road users as part of the planning process.

Mitigating impacts

During construction, we will need to close off sections of parking in phases for the works to proceed in a safe manner. Once operational, the carports will be 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.

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.

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, obstructing the solar irradiance and reducing energy generation. In this case, the columns will be repositioned. The design was reviewed to confirm safe and adequate light levels are maintained. The under-canopy lighting will help to reduce light pollution, as they will have no upward light emission.

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 site 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

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.