Sunday, 15 December 2019

Solar panels offer could help you save cash and the planet

Solar panels offer could help you save cash and the planet

RESIDENTS of Henley will be able to buy solar panels at a discount in a scheme to be launched in the new year.

The town council’s climate emergency working group is finalising an agreement with a provider called IDDEA which says it will offer “significant” reductions through bulk purchasing.

It plans to hold talks with neighbouring parishes about expanding the scheme, which could increase the size of the discounts.

The Wiltshire company will install solar panels which will automatically kick in and override the supply from the national grid when they receive enough power from the sun.

This will save householders money on their energy bills as it won’t count towards usage on the meter and could also be used to heat water.

The system will switch back to regular power once the panels aren’t producing enough.

For an additional charge, homeowners will be able to buy a battery which can store charge during the day and release it at night, when electricity is more expensive.

The scheme will be publicised with a leaflet campaign in early January and applications will be invited from the end of February.

The scheme, named Solar Streets, is one of several which were discussed at a meeting of the group last week.

Patrick Fleming, who is a member of the group and is treasurer of Greener Henley, said: “Solar Streets will offer a substantial discount on the normal price and we see this as being beneficial to everyone.

“Although the Government’s feed-in tariff has gone, this should still pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time, especially with the additional options like solar heating.

“The organisation we’re dealing with has done this in smaller-sized towns and has enjoyed a reasonable response rate. With more wealth in Henley there should be more scope for this to take off.

“We have a large retired population who are looking to reduce their living costs. Investing money doesn’t get much of a return but this reduces outgoings so it’s a sensible investment.”

Also on the agenda at the meeting were Cosy Homes and Better Homes, Better Health, two initiatives in which properties would be surveyed to identify their least energy efficient features and the best ways to improve them.

The former, provided by an Oxfordshire co-operative called RetrofitWorks, would be aimed at homeowners while the latter is for those at risk of fuel poverty, such as the elderly or those on benefits.

These will be publicised through social media and organisations like GP surgeries, the Henley 60+ Club, Citizens Advice and residents’ associations. The group also hopes to install electric vehicle charging points at one or two locations around the town where on-street parking is available.

These would be in addition to the existing pair in King’s Road car park and the two private ones at David Bray Motor Engineers, off Greys Road.

Members are scouting for possible locations before a feasibility study is commissioned.

Mr Fleming said installing charging points under a scheme called Connected Kerb would encourage uptake of electric vehicles and help the group achieve its goal of making Henley carbon neutral by 2030.

He said: “The current offering is a bit limited so we need to have the infrastructure in place. It’s going to be an ongoing process and we’re in the initial stages but we need a lot more for it to take off.”

The group will also encourage small-and medium-sized businesses to undergo audits and apply for grants towards energy saving measures under the OxFutures scheme, which is funded by the Low Carbon Hub and other partners.

It has agreed to establish a community energy society to manage the associated projects. This will be run by members, who will have to put in their own funds, while the town council will be a partner but with no funding or management responsibility.

There are also plans to install solar panels and LED lighting on public buildings and street furniture.

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