Newport City Council has been working in collaboration with Egni Co-op, a community organisation that funds and manages PV installation in Wales, to meet the target of becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030. To date, this partnership has installed 6,713 solar panels across 27 sites (2.074MW) in Newport, with an estimated annual generation of over 1,900,000 kWh of clean electricity.
Newport City Council already purchases 100% renewable electricity, however, our aim as a council is to generate as much renewable electricity on site so it is truly zero carbon.
The challenge of this project was to install just over 6,700 panels across 27 sites, within a three-month period.
Following initial support from Welsh Government Energy Services, Sustainable Communities Wales, and the Wales Co-operative Centre, Newport City Council partnered with Egni Co-op (Egni), which was set up by Awel Aman Tawe (AAT), a community energy charity, to deliver multiple roof-mounted solar schemes on the Council’s estate.
The solar panels were funded by a loan from the Development Bank of Wales and Egni Co-op’s ongoing share offer, which has raised £1.97m to date. The Council agreed to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Egni for the energy generated by the panels over 20 years. Egni’s team was responsible for the delivery of the project, engaging with stakeholders, the community, and the lead PV installer – Joju Solar.
An innovative delivery model was used whereby the council agreed to lease out parts of the buildings’ roof areas on a 21-year air-space lease to Egni Co-op, allowing Egni to install renewable energy generation equipment. As a result, Egni owns the equipment outright and is responsible for operating and servicing the equipment for the duration of the lease.
Newport Council and Egni Co-op’s collaborative approach has allowed for this programme of works to be completed against very tight timescales.
There was zero upfront cost to Newport Council, with the only ongoing cost being the purchase of the solar-generated electricity from Egni, however, this still enables the Council to save money as higher rates would have been paid to its existing electricity supplier. Minimal support will be required to facilitate periodic maintenance which will be delivered under existing asset management arrangements. At the end of the 21-year lease, Egni has agreed that the Council will take ownership of the roof mounted PV systems free of charge, so that the Local Authority can take full benefit from the renewable electricity that is generated.
The majority of the electricity generated will continue to be used on-site, reducing Newport’s carbon emissions by 348 tonnes per year. Sites hosting installations will benefit from purchasing electricity from the new systems at a reduced rate for the first 20 years, after which time the energy will be free.
As part of the programme of works, over 1,700 panels were installed on the roof of “The Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales”, making it the largest roof-mounted solar panel array on any building in Wales, with an installed capacity of 500kWp. This site alone could generate enough clean renewable electricity to power 190 average homes per year.
The solar works were carried out by local contractors ICE SOLAR and Joju Solar, who used local scaffolding companies, supporting local jobs in South Wales.
As the work included twenty-one schools, it was important that a strong link to education was established. Egni is committed to developing a specialist education programme highlighting the benefits of solar panels, renewable energy, and the business model of co-operatives. All Newport schools are now members of Egni Co-op themselves and have received £500 of free shares – this will provide a small income stream based on the solar generation but more importantly, raise awareness of how a cooperative approach can support environmental change.
Egni’s approach has drawn significant funding into the Welsh economy and helped to retain and support new jobs within the co-op. As solar energy is now being supplied by a Welsh co-op, it is helping to retain wealth in the economy, helping develop a circular economy.
Installing solar PV on a mature and varied estate is challenging. An effective project structure, which brings together an appropriate range of experienced partners, and the commitment of sufficient resources ‘up-front’ are essential for successful delivery.
Newport City Council and Egni have demonstrated what is possible, and a number of other local authorities have since followed suit, benefiting from Newport Council’s experiences.