Solar panels in Dorset farmland to power Tower Bridge, Old Bailey and Billingsgate

Solar panels in Dorset farmland to power Tower Bridge, Old Bailey and Billingsgate

More than 91,000 solar panels have been erected on farmland as part of a £40m deal between the City of London Corporation, which operates many key sites in the capital, and French energy company Voltalia.

The City Corporation will purchase all energy from the solar farm near Blandford Forum for the next 15 years. It has an output of 49.9 megawatts, which corresponds to the annual electricity consumption of around 15,000 households.

Other locations that will also be powered by ‘green’ energy are the Guildhall, Hampstead Heath, Barbican, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields markets.

As energy bills soar due to the war in Ukraine, this should save City Corporation around £3million a year and help it become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2040.

But rural campaigners warn that farmland is being lost to solar farms while Britain’s “food security” is threatened.

The City Corporation will get all of its energy from the solar farm near Blandford Forum in Dorset for the next 15 years

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Rupert Hardy, from the Dorset branch of CPRE, the rural charity, told the Standard: “This is good farmland that has been withdrawn from production to lay solar panels.

“It would have been much better if a fair number of roofs were covered with panels to provide that power.

“We would far prefer the land to be used to supply Dorset with food rather than powering London.”

The deal was struck in 2020 and is believed to be the first between a UK local authority and a renewable energy company.

The wind farm was connected earlier this week, a few months late. It will supply City Corporation from January 1st.

Schools and public housing operated by City Corporation are also powered by renewable energy.

Keith Bottomley, Chair of City Corporation’s Environment Committee, said: “This scheme is a game-changer for local authorities across the UK, reducing carbon emissions and delivering cheaper, safer energy that is sheltered from the price volatility of energy markets.

“The deal will increase our supply of green energy, doesn’t rely on taxpayers’ money, and helps us move off fossil fuels quickly.”

Sébastien Clerc, CEO of Voltalia, said: “In the current energy crisis, we are very proud to bring clean and cheap electricity to some of London’s most iconic landmarks.”

City Corporation’s £68m climate change strategy commits them to reach net-zero in their own operations by 2027 and in their investments and supply chain by 2040 – with a target for the entire Square Mile to be carbon neutral by the same year.

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