Published: Tuesday, 24th January 2023

A solar farm that could reduce CO2 emissions by 50 tonnes each year and save money on energy bills has been approved by Oldham Council’s cabinet.

The Council will own and potentially fund the solar farm on a former landfill site at Wrigley Head in Failsworth.

Savings could be made on Council energy bills as well as the farm generating a significant amount of renewable energy – contributing towards us achieving the ambitious carbon neutrality targets in our Green New Deal Strategy which forms part of our Creating a Better Place ambitions.

Our Creating a Better Place programme is creating a borough for the future where people will want to live, work, visit and socialise.

Wrigley Head Solar Farm would also improve the site in terms of biodiversity via wildflower planting and other measures, and it already has planning permission.

Cllr Abdul Jabbar, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, said: “This is another exciting project that we’re delivering to enhance life for people living, working and visiting Oldham while doing what is best with our funds and the environment.

“We are already making huge headway with our Creating a Better Place programme, creating an Oldham where people will want to live, work, visit and socialise.

“We need more projects that give us power from renewable sources and saw it as vital to review Wrigley Head, which had been paused during the pandemic when energy prices dropped due to the lockdown on the economy.

“Energy prices are now much higher and are likely to stay high for the next few years at least, which means we can now return to looking at the scheme.

“We said that if the business case stacked up that we would go ahead and careful work has demonstrated that this will now help us reduce energy bills and carbon emissions alongside contributing to our carbon neutrality targets we have for Council buildings and street lights.

“At the same time, we will improve what was once an industrial landfill site and there will be wildflower planting, invasive species like Japanese knotweed will be removed and we will maintain access through the site for wild animals.”

Cabinet, at its meeting on Monday 23 January agreed to a model where the council owns and funds Wrigley Head Solar Farm and allocates £1.35m for the construction.

Previously, grants had been available to fund construction and it is possible that grants may be available again, which would reduce the budget we need to make available for the build.

Additionally, it should also contribute to achieving the Greater Manchester target of an extra 4.5 megawatt (MW) of solar power by 2025 as set out in the five-year environment plan.

The specification of the project was set in 2019 when the original feasibility work was done – it is possible that with improvements in technology, the scheme could achieve 1 MW of generating capacity.

In spring 2020, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown on the economy meant that the long-term outlook for wholesale electricity prices was revised downwards and the solar farm no longer showed a viable business case at that stage.

The energy crisis and increasing costs prompted Cabinet members to return to the proposals during 2022.

The cabinet paper can be seen in full here.

More information on Creating a Better Place is here, and more on the Green New Deal Strategy is here.

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