Thames Water really goes for solar

Thames Water has just installed 28 solar arrays at its various water treatment plants in a project funded by Bluefield Partners LLP. The water authority has already installed some 3.7 MW of solar capacity and so this latest project represents a further endorsement of the technology by Thames Water.

Recently the Reading-based water authority announced that all its solar projects had been signed off by Ofgem at the 30.7p per kWh Feed-in Tariff (FiTS) rate, which has since been cut to 12.9p per kWh. The difference represents a potential generation of millions of pounds over the lifespan of the tariff.

The arrays have all been installed in areas that would have been unused otherwise, such as the 450 kW array on the roof of Beckton desalination plant in Newham, a 1,500 kW system on the top of some 19th century storm tanks at Crossness sewage works in Bexley and a 1,790 kW installation at Walton water treatment works in Sunbury. Each of these was funded by Europe Solar Utility (ESU) together with Ennoviga Solar Ltd alongside the engineering, procurement and construction company B&W Energy GmbH & Co.

The latest solar project was described by Bluefield Partner Mike Rand as “an excellent example of win-win application of solar PV in the UK”.

“[It provides] energy at point of use combined with long term fixed energy pricing which is attractive for long term investors and the energy user alike” Mr Rand said. “The project represents an approach which is core to Bluefield’s strategy.”

Thames Water Head of Carbon and Energy Management John Gilbert said: “Installing this type of renewable clean generation benefits our customers by reducing our energy costs and hence their bills (electricity being our highest consumable cost) at £80 million per annum. In total, these installations will produce over 1,000,000 kWh of renewable electricity pa, equivalent to the electricity consumption of 250 households, saving 561 tonnes CO2 per annum.”

Thames Water aims to become Britain’s biggest on-site producer and industrial user of solar power with the aim of providing protection from future upward fluctuations in the conventional energy markets. Although proposed cuts to FiTS may have put such large scale projects in doubt, utilities may be able to gain from solar PV through the adoption of long-term power purchase agreements such as that used by Thames Water in its previous projects. Ennoviga Solar has created an investment company which will own and maintain these installations but repaying the investment by selling the solar energy to Thames Water. The arrangement is predicted to save the authority around £100,000 a year in energy bills.

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