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Business Academy gets green light

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Electricity costs are to be slashed and educational opportunities enhanced at The Business Academy Bexley after it was given the green light for a renewable energy project believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

The proposed solar photovoltaic (PV) farm will have a 558.6kW peak capacity and generate around 45% of the electricity used by the Academy, cutting an estimated £46,790 off its annual £104,700 electricity bill and reducing its carbon footprint by 457 tonnes a year.

The unanimous decision by Bexley Council's Planning Committee on 9 June followed its planning officer's recommendation. Work on installing the solar farm, which will cover an area nearly three times the size of the football pitch at Wembley Stadium, is expected to start within days and to be completed by the end of July.

The project in Yarnton Way, Thamesmead is being developed jointly by the Academy and Dartford-based Enevis, a renewable energy company with a pedigree in mechanical and electrical engineering.

The ground-mounted solar farm is also the largest at any UK school and – following the government's Feed-in Tariff support is to be sharply reduced for schemes larger than 50kW – is likely to remain the sole installation of this scale to be attached to an Academy or school.

Included within the proposal is a renewable energy education centre overlooking the solar farm for use by pupils from the Academy and local schools.

"Getting the go-ahead for the solar farm is fantastic news for The Business Academy Bexley," said chief executive Mrs Sam Elms. "We have forged the way since being the first Academy to open in 2003. We were the first to open a primary and become an all-through primary/secondary and now we will be the first to have a large solar farm.

"We are working hard to ensure that we run the Academy as efficiently as possible. Producing our own, clean, green power will save us nearly £50,000 a year on our electricity bill; money that will be spent on educating our children – which, after all, is why we are here.

"This landmark project will reinforce our position as an eco-school and help us secure Green Flag status. It will also allow the students to learn about and see first hand the benefits of renewable energy technologies and how they can play a major role in helping us all reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."

The 4.2-acre solar farm will be built on a derelict, marshy site owned by the Academy that was formerly occupied by now demolished Thamesmead Community College buildings.

"We are pleased to be working with the Academy in helping to mitigate their future energy costs as well as providing an education facility that will enable the next generation to gain an understanding of the applicability and benefits of renewable energy technology," said Enevis commercial director Ashley Bateup. "Given the certainty of ever-rising energy prices, the installation of a renewable energy resource, such as solar PV, is something that we expect an increasing number of Academies and schools to embrace. Accordingly, we will be expanding our free solar PV installation service across the education sector.

"With renewable energy becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life, we feel it is vital that young people have a chance to see it in action and to learn more about it. With this in mind we are working to develop a range of teaching materials with the Academy that are linked to the national curriculum.

"The installation of a renewable energy system is something that every business should consider. Working in partnership with a company like Enevis makes it possible for businesses to reduce their energy costs and cut their carbon footprint through the use of the free, green power produced."

The Business Academy Bexley's solar farm will consist of 133 eight-foot high frames, each containing 20 solar PV panels screened by a boundary hedge. The installation will have a total peak capacity of 558.6kW with the electricity generated exported via an underground cable to an existing substation in the Academy's grounds.


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