IT WAS heralded by the borough’s environment chief as a shining example of the council’s commitment to combating climate change.
But a flagship project to install taxpayer-funded solar panels on three council buildings has not been as easy to get up and running as was hoped.
The idea of putting panels on two of the three buildings initially earmarked for thousands of pounds worth of electricity-generating solar panels, has been ditched – and now the search is on for better roofs to put the electricity-generating panels on.
As reported in The Gazette, the 60-strong full council agreed in January to release £50,000 of taxpayers’ cash to install photo-voltaic panels on Whiteditch Depot, in Sherborne Road, South View, Maidenwell Pavilion, at Down Grange, and the adjoining Down Grange Barns.
Earlier this year, 37 panels were installed on the Whiteditch building. But it has emerged that plans to put panels on the pavilion and the barns have now been shelved.
Maidenwell Pavilion’s south side is surrounded by dozens of trees which blanket large sections of the roof in shade. And it has emerged that the slate roof on the listed Down Grange Barns is not strong enough to hold the panels.
A report put before the decision-making Cabinet in December last year said the buildings had been assessed, and the council endorsed the project.
In January, borough environment chief Councillor Robert Donnell championed the pilot project which, he said, would save 9.4 tons of global warming inducing carbon dioxide.
He said: “This is a great example of the sort of things we want to do. We don’t want to do green initiatives that are not economic or sensible.”
Cllr Donnell said the three buildings were chosen based on an investigation in October 2011 by the Basingstoke Transition Network not-for-profit group.
Network members Martin Heath and Andy Molloy, who also run the Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative, presented their findings, which were done free of charge, to the borough’s housing and environment committee in January last year. They recommended Whiteditch should be “adopted as a priority”.
At Maidenwell, their report acknowledged that “there are a number of large trees that cast shade on part of the roof throughout the day”. They concluded that a small, 15-panel installation could still work.
The report also noted that the barns “could be a strong candidate” for solar panels, and stated “further consideration of this roof may be an attractive option for B&DBC”.
Cllr Donnell said: “Since the original advice from the Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative on suitable locations for solar panels on council buildings as part of a pilot, a further investigation has identified a number of other council buildings that are potentially more financial and environmentally efficient.”
Mr Heath said the Transition Network was only asked to look at the three roofs in the study, and said he agrees with the council’s decision to look for better roofs.
On a positive note, he said: “It’s great to see that the council have got their first solar power system in place (at Whiteditch). The key now is to get more systems up on roofs in and around Basingstoke.
“Community/council-owned rooftop solar PV systems are win-win. Given that everybody is a winner, we should just get on with it.”