Portsmouth City Council's solar panel work wins warm praise for a sunny outlook

PORTSMOUTH has been hailed as a leading city in renewable energy, despite claims it could do more to be green.

A report from the Solar Trade Association has named Portsmouth City Council as one of the UK’s pioneers in solar energy due to its installation of 300 rooftop solar panels on buildings such as offices and schools.

Energy created by the photovoltaic (PV) systems that were first set up in 2014 is used to power their host buildings, with any surplus sold for extra income. The council is also encouraging businesses to use solar panels on their premises in a move that could save clients £1,000 a year on electricity bills.

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The chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, Chris Hewett, praised the council’s work. He said: ‘Portsmouth City Council has been particularly clever in its approach to solar PV, enabling it to continue to roll out hundreds of solar roofs. We’d like to see other councils follow their lead or use their scheme.’

James Hill, the council’s director of property and housing, said: ‘We’ve installed solar panels across the city on sites including schools, sheltered housing blocks, community centres and office buildings like the civic offices, creating 5MW of generating capacity.

‘This investment makes Portsmouth a greener place and generates an income. We now use our expertise to help other authorities make solar investments too.’

However, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the council needs to do more. He added: ‘I’m really pleased that the council has been recognised for its use of solar panels.

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‘But more action is needed to make Portsmouth a greener city. There have been concerns about getting more people to cycle around the city. For the four years the Conservatives have run the council we have seen almost no action on this which is really bad for a city that has such poor air quality.’

Council leader Donna Jones rebuffed these claims. She said: ‘It is great news that the council has been recognised in this way. Since 2014, when the Tories took over, we have done more than any other political party – including the Lib Dems – to improve Portsmouth. We are committed to making Portsmouth a greener city. In terms of encouraging cycling we have got a two-year deal with British Cycling hosting the Pearl Izumi race and most recently voted for a bike share scheme.’

The report also cited Cambridge City Council for its installation of solar panels on all new council houses and West Sussex County Council for building one of the UK’s first solar farms.