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THERE has been “good progress” on a £6.8m project for a solar farm in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the council said.

A report for the council’s climate change cabinet sub committee on Monday, October 3, revealed it will be located on council-owned land in Coed Ely, on an 84-acre former colliery site, near Tonyrefail.

The project has the potential to offset more than 1,500 tonnes of carbon a year and approaching 54,000 tonnes over the expected 35-year minimum life cycle of the project, the report added.

The project is described as a 6 Megawatt (MW) solar farm, which is made up of the size of the grid connection that the council previously accepted from Western Power Distribution (WPD), which is set at a maximum of 5MW and the capacity to increase the generation potential for the total size of the solar farm, which takes into account a further export capacity of up to 1MW taken to a potential public sector partner through a private wire.

Consent has been granted by cabinet to proceed with the proposals and move them forward to project status.

The report said “good progress” has been achieved since then and council lawyers are in the final stages of finalising the heads of terms for the private wire connection arrangement and power purchase agreement with a potential public sector partner.

It added that “good progress” has also been achieved with WPD with the location of the connection point to the grid having been revealed.

WPD confirmed that the National Grid had now also agreed to accept the proposals and it was agreed that further meetings between both parties will take place.

Following the WPD approval, several meetings were then held with
representatives of the Welsh Government Energy Service (WGES) and
it has been agreed that the council can use the WGES ‘Helioscope’ design to look to procure the services of industry design specialists to produce a more detailed design.

The plan is to start discussions with planning colleagues during the third quarter of 2022, with a view to submitting a planning application at the appropriate time.

Discussions are ongoing with the local farmer who has access to the
land, with grazing rights, regarding the future management of the land
on which the solar farm is to be built.

The report said negotiations are progressing well and “it is anticipated that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached before the start of the planning stage”.

The council has now appointed a project manager, to take it forward to the planning stage, to update the project time line and to review the budget.

The report said the project will “make a vastly significant contribution to the council’s ability to offset its carbon footprint, and towards achieving its net zero carbon target.”

The location has not previously been revealed but the report said negotiations around agreeing a power purchase agreement and off take contract with a potential partner are now drawing to a close so the council is able to provide further details, including the geographical location of the proposed site.

The budget estimate for the full development and construction costs for this entire project stands in the region of £6.82m, including fees.

The council expects this could be funded through prudential borrowing with the annual income from the energy generation being “more than sufficient” to cover the annual borrowing repayments and the ongoing annual costs and maintenance of the assets.

The report said the project is “highly likely” to generate an income for the council, over and above the annual cost of financing and operating the scheme, and then provide a substantial financial benefit once the payback period has passed.

A full project report and business case and the prudential borrowing would need approval from cabinet and full council.

The report added that the cost of borrowing has now risen above the level used in the financial model at the time of the previous assessment but despite this the council thinks that due to the wholesale market rises in energy costs, both known current and predicted future rises, the project model will still show a payback period of considerably under 25 years when the next
budget and income review is assessed.


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