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Farm to spearhead solar-panel revolution?

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AN installation of more than 700 solar panels on the roof of a farm building is due to generate sufficient electricity for the annual needs of 34 homes.

JEC commercial services director Peter Cadiou, Woodside Farm director Charlie Gallichan and Sun Works Jersey director Mark Brandon

The project – the largest of its kind in the Channel Islands – follows an agreement signed between Woodside Farm in Trinity and Jersey Electricity could be the start of a wave of solar installations in Jersey.

The Jersey Development Company, for example, has submitted plans to install solar panels on top of the fourth building at the International Finance Centre as part of a range of other green initiatives including collecting rainwater. The planning application for the fourth building was lodged in December.

The JEP also understands that solar panels could be included as part of other major capital projects in the Island too.

At Woodside Farm, Jersey Electricity will own and operate the panels, which are being installed by Island-based solar-power specialist SunWorks. When the panels become operational in the spring, they are expected to generate almost a quarter of a million units of electricity which will feed directly into the grid.

The utility company hopes that such installations will become increasingly common as part of the Island’s commitment to make greater use of renewable energy.

Peter Cadiou, director of commercial services for Jersey Electricity, said there were benefits for all those involved.

‘It enables a business to exploit one of its assets, provides an opportunity for a local company like SunWorks and means we can further evaluate how projects of this type will work in practice,’ he said.

‘We believe that by working closely with land- and property-owners and alongside local specialists, we will be able to help the Island become a leader in delivering a carbon-neutral future.’

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Mr Cadiou said that having first discussed the scope for such an installation with Island farmers early last year, he was delighted that the project was confirmed, and hoped that other businesses would follow suit.

Solar schemes were more likely to be viable for farmers or other businesses with lots of space available, Mr Cadiou added, due to the economies of scale that would result. There have also been some ‘early adopters’ – individuals who have taken steps to install panels on their homes.

Woodside Farm owner Charlie Gallichan, who has had smaller-scale solar-power systems on his land since 2012, said the installation would play a role in keeping farming financially viable in the future.

‘Green-energy projects like this are essential to ensure the future sustainability of modern farming businesses, not only by minimising our environmental impact but also by creating a new income stream,’ he said.

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Jersey Electricity chief executive Chris Ambler said: ‘Jersey is on a journey to a carbon-neutral future and is in an enviable position compared with many countries because its electricity supply is already virtually completely decarbonised. One third of our electricity is already derived from renewable hydro-electric sources in France and locally generated renewables sit comfortably with this. Woodside is a significant and exciting project, in partnership with a local company, that will increase the amount of local renewable electricity in our supply mix.’

About 95% of Jersey’s energy comes from France via undersea cables. That energy is produced by nuclear power plants and hydro-electricity. The remaining 5% of Jersey’s energy comes from the Island’s energy recovery facility, which creates electricity from burning waste.

Made up of 702 panels, each with a capacity of 325 watts, the Woodside installation is expected to generate 247,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. This is three times more than that generated by the installation on the roof of La Collette power station – 80,000kwh – and exceeds the scale of the newly installed solar array on the roof of the Guernsey Post headquarters. The St Peter Port project was completed in November and should generate just over 200,000kwh.

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