Solar-powered electric cars get go-ahead for Northumberland County Council

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As part of its ambition to cut carbon emissions in half by 2025, Northumberland County Council has appointed energy specialists, UK Power Networks Services, to design and build a £3 million infrastructure upgrade to its main staff car park in Morpeth, including 120 new electric vehicle charge points.

This includes an 800kW solar photovoltaic (PV) carport array – a combination of solar panels connected to form a large installation which provides weather protection for electric vehicles and generates power – along with a 400kW battery storage system with smart controls to make energy use more efficient.

The technology will work together as an integrated system to provide clean energy. Energy from the solar panels will be used to power the EV charge points for fleet/staff vehicles or stored for later to maximise cost and carbon efficiency. In total, it could save about 250 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Philip Heathcote, Head of Markets at UK Power Networks Services, said, “By being innovative and using technology smartly, we can transform the way we use energy and reduce emissions quickly.”

Planning permission was granted in February 2023, with preparatory and refurbishment work starting in August 2022. The project is part-funded by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 with match-funding from the council, which it plans to recoup from its investment in the system through energy savings.

Parts of the car park will also remain open during the upgrade, with around two thirds of the parking spaces available at any one time.

Glen Sanderson, Leader of Northumberland County Council and portfolio holder for climate change, said, “I am so pleased to see these important works begin to get underway. We are on a journey to reduce carbon emissions across the county, and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through adopting innovative ways to produce cleaner energy.

“We are a huge employer in the region and finding ways to sustain our energy usage is high on our list of priorities.

“I’m pleased to have UK Power Networks Services on board to help us begin to future-proof our estate and help us in our mission to make Northumberland a carbon neutral county by 2030.”

Cabinet members have also recently approved the installation of 75 new on-street EV charge points per year at key locations in the county. This follows a pilot of on-street charging points which have been installed over the past year.

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