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Council solar farm costs go up by £2m

The price tag to build a West Berkshire Council-funded solar farm has gone up by £2m.

Last year, it announced it would spend £10m to build the plant at Grazeley.

That figure has now gone up to £12m – but the council is refusing to provide a breakdown of when the spend will show a return of investment to council tax payers.

Solar farm costs go up (55016107)
Solar farm costs go up (55016107)

To help it achieve its carbon neutral ambitions by 2030, the council decided to construct a solar farm on land it owns near Grazeley.

The farm will consist of more than 45,000 solar panels installed over 75 acres.

In preparation, the local authority carried out a feasibility study – costing £426,000.

This, claims the council, showed the solar farm could offset around 30 per cent of the council’s carbon footprint, including the estimated footprint of contractors working on the local authority’s behalf.

But the council is refusing to make public the feasibility study, or any business cases which would point to the actual cost, or return, to the West Berkshire council tax payers who are funding it.

Or whether it will break even in its expected 25-year life span.

It said: “… at this stage of the project it remains commercially sensitive so we are not able to share anything further for now.”

Steve Ardagh-Walter, executive member for the environment for the council, said last year when announcing the project: “It could significantly reduce our carbon footprint with any surplus income available to reinvest in other environmental projects.”

In 2020 the council said it spent more than £500,000 on installing solar panels on some of its buildings.

The spend is in the council’s Capital Expenditure Strategy which is due to be discussed at full council in March.

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