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JE supports solar farms

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JERSEY Electricity is inviting local landowners to take part in a pilot scheme to generate power from solar energy.

The Power generated from solar farms would benefit local landowners, according to JE chief executive Chris Ambler

The utility company has said it wants to encourage farmers, developers, the States, parishes and other landowners to install ground-mounted solar panels on brownfield sites with limited alternative economic value.

The power generated by the ‘solar farms’ would then be sold back to JE under a long-term purchase contract that would guarantee prices for up to 20 years.

The announcement comes at a time when the Environment Department is undertaking a review to assess the current status of renewable energy in the Island and the possible development of the sector. The results of the review, which could require the 1937 Electricity Law to be amended, are expected in the coming weeks.

Commenting on the announcement, JE chief executive Chris Ambler said that the power generated from solar farms would benefit local landowners, as well as generating electricity for the Island’s homes and businesses.

‘We are aware of an increasing appetite for locally-generated renewables and wish to play an active role in facilitating this. This is now a real opportunity for local landowners or developers to become electricity generators in pilot schemes with the advantage of securing a long-term contract against which they can raise funds.’

However, Deputy Carolyn Labey has previously raised concerns over the utility’s potential monopoly of the renewable energy sector. In a proposition to the States earlier this year, she said that JE’s proposal to extend charges to private businesses looking to generate renewable energy could damage the development of the sector in the Island.

‘I have significant concerns that this charge will reduce commercial investment in renewable technology in the Island and the fledgling renewable industry, both installing and selling renewable energy products. It will also ensure that either only JE can invest in large-scale renewables, or that Jersey remains tied to importing expensive energy from France.’

But Mr Ambler said that the charges in question were designed for businesses using Jersey’s electricity grid as a back-up, and would not be applicable to the kind of smaller-scale solar farms envisaged for the new project.

‘We are inviting local landowners to invest in solar developments that would, by international standards, be pretty small. The power that they would produce would then feed directly into the grid, making the issue of standby charges irrelevant,’ he said.

He added that potential sites for the scheme would require the relevant planning permission.

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