Green energy explored to power the future

Jacquie Shaw of the NMRN

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MORE solar panels and biomass boilers could be on the cards to help power council-owned buildings.

Leaders at Hampshire County Council have agreed to a long-term strategy to exploit greener forms of energy.

The plan includes reviewing the amount of energy used by the council, which owns many public buildings including schools.

Leaders are also exploring opportunities for generating energy as well as selling it on.

It could include projects such as installation of biomass boilers, which are used at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Clanfield.

Hot water is generated by burning wood chippings.

Cllr Ken Thornber, leader of the county council, said: ‘We currently spends in the region of £15.7m on energy across its whole estate, with schools accounting for most of this.

‘Rising energy bills are therefore a significant concern for the council, especially with the reductions in funding we are facing.

‘It makes sense to explore how we can drive down our costs in this area and this could include generating our own energy in future.’

Part of the scheme has been to install solar panels on council buildings.

But this strand of the project is still on hold due to uncertainty over government subsidies paid to any organisation or individual that generates solar energy.

Cllr Thornber added: ‘Initiatives saw the council reduce its carbon emissions by 3,925 tonnes in 2010/11. Our award-winning head office is a prime example of what can be achieved through “green” building design. It has reduced its average energy consumption by 60 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

‘We now need to consider how we can build on the progress we have made, learn from experience and explore how in the long term we can reduce the council’s reliance on grid-based electricity from fossil fuels.’