Telford & Wrekin Council solar farm 'will pay for itself'
The cost of a solar farm on the edge of Telford is "good borrowing" that will pay for itself over time, councillors have been told.
Telford & Wrekin Council wants to investigate the possibility of a field full of solar panels at Wheat Leasows, at Horton in the north of Telford, which could earn about £5 million profit over 20 years.
Councillor Shaun Davies told last night's cabinet meeting: "The council has made it clear that it is committed to moving towards a more secure financial position.
"This is an initial business case for the development of a solar farm in the borough. It is part of our wider energy strategy to reduce energy use and use more renewable sources of energy.
"We will continue to work with those residents who are immediately adjacent to the site and further conversations will take place.
"The government is looking to local authorities and residents to invest in green energy and that's what this council is doing. It's good for the environment and creates a much-needed income source for the council, which will be invested into children's services and adult social care.
"If we don't find ways of creating income those services will be impacted in a negative way."
Councillor Bill McClements, the cabinet member in charge of finance, said: "It is British energy, it is Telford energy – it's not Middle Eastern oil or Russian gas. The financial model is probably a bit conservative."
Conservative group leader Councillor Andrew Eade questioned whether the council should be taking the financial risk of borrowing money to set up the farm for what could be a small return.
He said: "It's an innovative idea to do this, and there are aspects of it I welcome, but I do wonder if we are going too soon with this.
"There are a number of issues which haven't been resolved in the business case. Potentially the profit from this is quite small, and it won't take much of a variable to cause problems."
Councillor Davies described the investment as "good borrowing" and likened it to the difference between taking out a mortgage for a house that would appreciate and yield a return, and borrowing to buy a car which would depreciate over time.
"This will pay for itself. You need to stop being the 'no' man of Telford," he said.
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