The future’s bright: Rochdale gives power back to people with solar farm first to turn Manchester green with envy

Renewable energy will soon be shining bright and available to the public as Greater Manchester’s first accessible solar farm will be opened later this month in Rochdale.

The 250kW photovoltaic (PV) solar farm, which is situated on Entwhislte Road, will be in operation for 25 years and will help with the council’s annual energy bill of around £6.4million each year.

Greater Manchester is just one of many regions nationally that is under pressure to come up with innovative means of producing cleaner energy ever since the 2008 Climate Change Act came into force.

Abdul Jabbar, a senior sustainability officer for the Borough of Rochdale has spoken energetically on the importance of re-wiring the way residents can benefit from renewable energy.

“The constraints from central government have meant that town’s across the board are having to rethink on how they can source energy,” he said.

“What we’re providing is a way in which the public can benefit from renewable sources.”

The site is to be opened mid-October and will launch on an area previously known for contaminated land close to the Rochdale Leisure Centre.

Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Councillor Richard Farnell, explained earlier this week why he felt the site was suitable for the farm.

“Options for this site are limited, due to its former use as a waste disposal site and contamination present, so a solar farm would allow the council to turn this land from a liability to a productive asset,” he said.

Energy prices have rocketed in the last few years on an average of almost 10% each year, while government budget cuts have ensured councils have to abide to a 48% deficit by 2020, savings which amount to £51million over the next two years.

Mark Widdup, director of economy and environment for Rochdale, is hoping for the area to become Britain’s greenest local authority, as well as power local public structures such as the town’s leisure facilities.

“Rochdale aims to secure the title of the greenest local authority by continuing to invest in renewable,” he said.

“This is in order to generate new multi-million pound revenue streams, fund municipal services, put land assets to work, underwrite energy security and offset energy prices.” 

Further bids to place Rochdale top of the environmental tree are already in place.

Renewable solar panels have been tiled on Heywood Village Hall and have been put in place by Southern Solar, who have also worked on the Entwhislte Road site.

And a pilot turbine operation at the Hopward Farm site, Middleton, is scheduled to be launched in the summer of 2015 with the instillation of two 2,500 megawatt machines at a cost of £1.5million each.

Mr Jabbar added: “The cost of the two will come to over two million yet the income stream from them is estimated at around seven million.

“Therefore you can see a substantial financial benefit from natural resources that will benefit the residents in this region.”

Rochdale already houses numerous privately owned energy sites, including the large Peel Scoutmore site, which can be seen from various points across the borough’s landscape.

Mr Jabbar concluded: “As well as providing renewable, publically accessible energy, the current solar panels are not hampering the traditional image of the region, nor are they able to be seen from foot or from a height.

“We are really paving the way for a brighter future here in the North West.”

Image courtesy of Kate Ausburn, with thanks

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