The government has announced its intention to install on-site solar PV on the roofs of 19 UK prisons and detention centres.
Sited on long-lasting roofs where legal tenure couldn’t be more secure – arrays, too, or so officials hope –, light-generated minimal-carbon electricity is destined for HMPs Eastwood Park, Ford, Guys Marsh, Haverigg, Isle of Wight, Leyhill, Lindholme and Moorland, Littlehey, New Hall, Onley, Stocken, Werrington, Whatton and Whitemoor.
Calculations from the justice ministry put expected output at 7,000 kWh per year. Installers – if not inmates – will up on prison roofs early in 2022.
Next year’s drive follows ground-mount installations recently lit at her Majesty’s guest-welcoming establishments HMP Bullingdon, Erlestoke and Wayland.
Prisons and probation minister Alex Chalk said: “As we build back safer and greener from the pandemic, our prisons are playing their part in the government’s ambitious environmental plans.”
Central government’s extensive estate – defence bases, tax and DVLA offices, prisons, research centres, customs posts and others – has long been viewed by campaigners as ideal sites for solar PV. Pressing short-term needs for cuts in tax-payers’ bills coincides immediately with very long tenure of necessary land, making them ideal.
Consistent with ministers’ stop-go short-termism, – as shown in the Green Homes Grant, aborted this spring by HM Treasury with less than 10% of its targets met – , a spasm of enthusiasm in 2014 flickered along Whitehall, favouring PV arrayed on ministry-controlled landscapes.
In coalition with the LibDems, in that year the Conservatives pledged to erect 1 GWp of solar arrays on central government’s estates by 2020.
A mere seventeen months later and utterly without announcement, Conservatives privately informed the solar industry in conversations that the goal had been canned.
One of two fruits of that spasm is the 70 MWp Bradenstokesolar farm in Wiltshire, still among Britain’s biggest.
A collaboration by the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence, the farm was erected by British Solar Renewables on 250 acres of the former RAF Lyneham’s runway. Good for generation in 2016, Bradenstoke’s 260 Wp-rated panels would now be regarded as under-powered.
The second is another airbase, the former RAF Wroughton, since renamed the Swindon Solar Farm, its generating potential rated at 60 MWp.
Dead after less than two years, ministers’ 2014 initiative are thought to have delivered a mere ten per cent of the its promised target, a leading trade publication revealed three years later.