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Solar power from Dorset to light up the City

A deal agreed between the City of London Corporation and French renewables firm, Voltalia, will lead to solar panels located in Dorset powering local authority buildings in London’s Square Mile – the colloquial name for the capital’s financial district. The deal, a power purchase agreement (PPA), will see Voltalia building a new 95,000 panel solar farm from which all generated energy goes to the City’s governing body.

Under the terms of the PPA, announced on November 18th, Voltalia will provide 49 megawatts (MW) of solar energy annually for 15 years to the City Corporation for a fixed cost of £40m. The solar farm, granted planning permission in February, will be located near the village of Spetisbury in North Dorset and should be constructed in six months once the work commences.

Although it has sourced 100% renewable energy since 2018, this will be the first time the City Corporation has helped to build a new renewable project. City Corporation expects to save about £3m in energy costs over the life of the deal and the energy provided will power about half of their buildings in the City – the equivalent of about 15,000 homes.

In addition to locking down their electricity expenses from a renewable source, the Corporation attain certainty of supply. This was a major factor in the decision following the failure of council-owned loss-making green energy companies in Bristol and Nottingham.

Jamie Ingham Clark, chair of City Corporation’s Corporate Asset sub-committee, said the deal could lead other local authorities across the UK to follow suit and “play their part in reducing emissions without the risks of owning their own energy firms or infrastructure and without the need for Government funding”.

The Corporation has pledged the Square Mile to be net zero by 2040 although Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, set London the goal of reaching this target by 2030. This ambitious pledge was central to Khan's mayoral re-election campaign before the vote was postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The suppliers in this deal – Voltalia – are an established renewable energy producer with a presence in 20 countries. They have developed, constructed and operated 22 solar farms in the UK since they began operations here in 2012. Globally, Voltalia has generating capacity in operation and under construction of over 1.3 gigawatts (GW) and a portfolio of projects under development representing total capacity of 8.5GW.

The news is a boost to the solar power sector just a couple of days after it was conspicuously absent from the government’s 10-point climate plan which allocated funding and policy pledges across most of the other sectors of the green economy.


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