Solar panels plan backed

COUNCILLORS have unanimously backed plans to borrow money to fund a scheme to install cash-saving solar panels on the roofs of council-owned buildings.

Hartlepool Borough Council will install the photo-voltaic (PV) panels on a number of buildings after councillors agreed to use up to £646,000 of prudent borrowing.

The plans, which will help slash carbon emissions, were approved at a meeting of the full council at the Civic Centre.

The council is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 124 tonnes a year and save money by installing the panels on some of its properties to generate electricity.

The local authority could save up to £36,000 a year in energy bills once the loan repayments have been paid.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “The cabinet has decided to look at training a number of council staff. They will be able to install them and we can also look to install them for other people.”

Councillor Ray Wells, leader of the Conservative group, asked the mayor if the solar panels recently installed on the top of Bryan Hanson House, off Lynn Street, were part of the same scheme.

Mayor Drummond said money from the recently disbanded Regional Efficiency Improvement Partnership was used to fund that work.

Council officers came up with the proposals to tap into the Government’s “feed-in tariff” that rewards organisations that generate their own renewable electricity.

It will also help the council achieve its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 21 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

The panels must be installed and generating electricity before the end of March next year to take advantage of the higher tariff levels.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said he “fully endorsed” the programme while Labour councillor Marjorie James called for school buildings to be included as soon as possible.

The plans have been criticised by Andy Gunn, who is managing director of electrical contractors and solar energy engineers Agelec.

One of its trading identities is 1st4solar, which is based in Stockton Road.

He commended the council for the scheme but said they should look to use local businesses instead of training council staff.

Mr Gunn, who was at the full council meeting, said: “Local contractors should not be overlooked and they should be used to their full potential.

“The council has a commitment to keep business local and they should stick to that.”

Officers are assessing council-owned buildings to see which are suitable for the panels.