Solar carports to help power two Suffolk leisure centres

Carports in Stowmarket car park

An indicative image of what the solar car ports could look like in Stowmarket - Credit: REN Energy/Mid Suffolk District Council

A pilot project is to get underway in two Suffolk districts to reduce the reliance on the grid and instead utilise solar power for leisure centres.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils' cabinets last week agreed to the solar carports scheme, a project which will feature solar panels and battery storage being installed at the car parks for Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury and Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.

Those carports will be bike-shed style covers on parking spaces with solar panels on top.

Councillor Jessica Fleming said the important of freedom for people needed to be kept in mind. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mid Suffolk council cabinet member for the environment, Jessica Fleming - Credit: Archant

The schemes, which have secured £400,000 each from the government's Getting Building Fund as well as investment of £350,000 at Babergh and £300,000 in Mid Suffolk, will open by the end of March 2022.

Councillor Jessica Fleming, Conservative cabinet member for the environment at Mid Suffolk, said: "Approval of this project with match funding from government reduces the carbon footprint around our leisure centres which are one of our highest emitters, and takes us closer to meeting our ambition of carbon neutrality.

"Using our own assets to generate electricity provides us with an opportunity to make best use of available space and to set an example for others to follow.

Aerial image of carports

An indicative image of what the solar car ports could look like in Sudbury - Credit: REN Energy/Babergh District Council

“Encouraging sustainable travel and improving air quality in the district will help to support a greener future and vision for our key towns.”

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The schemes will help generate power for things such as EV charge points in those car parks, as well as the leisure centres themselves. If successful the pilot could be rolled out to other council-owned sites in the two districts.

Councillor Elisabeth Malvisi, Conservative cabinet member for environment at Babergh's rainbow administration, said: "The introduction of solar carport technology in Sudbury really demonstrates our forward-looking approach for our towns. We want to see them thrive, and lead the way when it comes to clean growth and tech – and this is one of the ways we’re doing just that.

“Suffolk, and Babergh, are a natural fit for solar, receiving more sun hours on average than the rest of the UK. I hope this project will help to ensure Babergh continues to be a place people are proud to live and work.”

Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment. Picture: BABERGH DISTR

Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh council cabinet member for the environment - Credit: Archant

Dr Dan Pratt from the opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group in Mid Suffolk, said: "Green councillors have been very critical of the limited public provision and small contribution that the district council has so far made to the availability of  public electric vehicle charging.

"This scheme is welcome in going beyond charging points to increase the council contribution to renewable electricity and bring an element of grid flexibility through battery storage.

"This latter is of particular interest as grid flexibility is the purported justification for the Eye gas-fired power station which although granted approval by Government five years ago as key national infrastructure, has not been built.

Dan Pratt, Green Party candidate in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich. Picture: GREEN PARTY

Dr Dan Pratt from Mid Suffolk council's opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group - Credit: Archant

"Government are now trying to push it ahead with extra money from the bill-paying public, despite gas being the most expensive source of short-term extra output.  

"The Green Party view is that Eye gas power station would be obsolete, given shrinking costs of both renewable generation and storage of power. We would like to see that scheme formally scrapped."