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Highland Council hits energy saving milestone in solar panels project

By John Davidson

Milton of Leys solar array.
Milton of Leys solar array.

Solar panels installed on public buildings across the Highlands so far will generate more than 500,000kWh of energy a year.

Fourteen key buildings across Highland Council's non-domestic estate now have the panels added as the local authority is partway through phase three of a six-phase project.

The work done so far is expected to deliver a carbon saving of more than 128,000kg of CO2 equivalent a year, which it says is the same as 1200 journeys from Thurso to Edinburgh in a non-electric car.

The council says that, with future phases involving more buildings, the carbon saving and energy generation figures could triple.

The £2.3 million project is designed to combat energy price increases, reduce energy spend and reduce carbon emissions.

Councillor Trish Robertson, climate change panel chairwoman, said: “I am delighted to see the energy and renewables programme reach this milestone. The council’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency, and its aspiration to reach a net-zero Highland by 2025, represent a significant challenge for the organisation, but also opens up exciting opportunities for real organisational and regional development.

“This programme is a great example – it is challenging work that requires significant investment, but it provides a host of benefits. As well as the significant carbon savings, the programme has financial benefits for the council, including greater stability and control, and reassessing how we use and invest in our assets.”

The project is self-financing, with savings expected to offset investment, with funding coming via the council's £7 million Salix recycling fund, a pot of money match-funded by an interest-free loan to the council for energy-efficiency projects, funded by the Scottish Government through Salix Finance Ltd.

Highland Council currently operates the largest recycling fund in Scotland and the largest for a local authority in the UK.

Finlay MacDonald, head of property services and project sponsor for the energy and renewables programme, added: “Annual kilowatt-hour savings of over half a million is a significant milestone for this project and a key part of our wider long-term strategy to help reduce our carbon emissions and mitigate against increasing energy prices by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures across the council estate.

“This ambitious programme is vital in delivering on our vision for a sustainable Highland, both environmentally and financially.”

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