Rochdale Council switch on brand new solar farm

Mar 21, 2024 | Smart Energy

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The largest publicly-owned solar farm in Greater Manchester has powered up in Heywood. Rochdale Borough Council’s 10-hectare site at Chamber House in Heywood, which secured just over £3m funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is now switched on.

The 5.5-megawatt facility provides enough electricity to power 2,000 homes and will connect to the national grid. It will offset the council’s annual energy bill, potentially saving the authority thousands of pounds a year.

In addition to saving over 2,300 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the solar farm also brings multiple environmental benefits, with a huge planting scheme across the site. More than 8,000 hedges, trees and plants have been planted and wildflower seeding to increase biodiversity, with the installation of bird boxes and wildlife habitats to encourage animal life cycles to continue to thrive.

Councillor Tricia Ayrton, assistant to the portfolio holder for climate change and the environment at Rochdale Borough Council, said “This project is a really important step forward in our fight against climate change and means our borough will be more than playing its part in helping to deliver Greater Manchester’s pledge to become net zero by 2038. These types of innovative clean and green projects are really important and I know we are looking at delivering more of them in the future.”

The contractor who delivered the project, Vital Energi, got the local community involved during the build, arranging mock interviews for local schoolchildren, presenting climate education workshops, holding site tours and offering work experience and local apprenticeship opportunities.

Chamber House Solar Farm was delivered by the Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) on behalf of the council. This solar farm forms one of several projects being delivered under the ERDF-funded Unlocking Clean Energy within Greater Manchester (UCEGM) umbrella project led by Energy Systems Catapult (ESC).

Chamber House is the second solar farm in the borough, following the installation of panels around Rochdale Leisure centre, which power the facility. The borough’s three largest leisure centres have all had solar panels installed on their roofs, as have a selection of primary schools and other council buildings, including the Green Lane Depot and some council-owned industrial units.

David Oatt, Regional Manager for Vital Energi, said “Greater Manchester have some extremely ambitious net zero targets and Chamber House Solar Farm will be a great addition to their renewable energy infrastructure, generating clean electricity for decades to come.  Not only that, but we were able to make significant improvements to the land in areas such as planting and drainage, making it a truly sustainable project.”

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