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Swansea farm harvesting solar power for new electric car charging point

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A 1MW solar farm at Killan Fach farm in Dunvant now has a fully operational battery, releasing green energy from locally-harvested sunshine onto the national grid.

The solar asset became the first community-owned solar farm in Wales when a community share offer completed in 2017. Sales of green electricity from the farm will enable Community Benefit Society Gower Regeneration Ltd to support projects that benefit the local community.

The battery, partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government, makes an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging facility on-site possible. 2 charging points enable EVs to access 22kw of power (far more than a home charging station, giving a faster charge) for just 6p per kilowatt hour.

Tesla battery storage unit at the Killan Fach Farm site (Image: Gower Power)

The power flowing from the battery into EVs is 100% green, either drawn directly from the solar panels on site, or, if supplies run low, topped up from other renewable sources.

The charge points can be used via the Podpoint app, easily installed on a smart phone. According to Podpoint, the “EV Charging Ecosystem” of the UK currently consists of 60% home charging points, 30% workplace charge points, just 7% at destinations like supermarkets, cinemas, shopping centres and public car parks and a mere 3% en route. The capacity of an EV battery is such that very long journeys need to be carefully planned to allow for top-ups, and more en-route charging is needed if the UK is going to make the switch to EV viable for many motorists.

The project has been welcomed by SPECIFIC, Swansea University’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for energy technology research, whose Active Buildings work showcases the use of buildings themselves as power stations. Nigel Morris, EV Integration Manager said, “EV charging infrastructure is critical to reducing carbon emissions from transport. Adding EV charging into local energy generation and storage, as Gower Power has done here, is exactly in line with our Active Building principles.”

Solar Powered EV car charging point at Killen Fach Farm, Dunvant (Image: Gower Power)

Mark McKenna, Director of Down to Earth, a Gower based sustainability social enterprise, also welcomes the charge point. Recently awarded an MBE for services to young people and the environment, McKenna said: “There’s a real need for more EV Charge points on Gower and it’s critical to show how renewable energy generation needs to go hand-in-hand with electric vehicle charging. Combined with battery storage, this is a remarkable facility to have on the gateway to Gower and will build confidence in the public and businesses to go fully electric with their vehicles.”

Drivers need to know they have plenty of charging options before taking the plunge and switching their dirty old motor for a clean new EV. Swansea Council is expanding EV charging facilities through their car parks, and residents welcome a growing local network of charging stations.

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Local EV driver Kate Denner said, “I used the charge points last week for the first time. They are great! No hassle at all. You download the PodPoint app; put credit in your account and charge away. For 75% charge, it cost £2.50…. I really appreciate being able to access this service so close to home.”

Users can locate the charge point on Killan Fach Farm via the PodPoint app.

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Business

Energy intensive industries could get further relief under new Government proposals

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High electricity using businesses like steel and paper mills could see further relief under new proposals to help subsidise their electricity costs.

The UK Government is consulting on the option to increase the level of exemption for certain environmental and policy costs from 85% of costs up to 100%.

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This reflects higher UK industrial electricity prices than those of other countries including in Europe, which could hamper investment, competition and commercial viability for hundreds of businesses in industries including steel, paper, glass, ceramics, and cement, and risk them relocating from the UK.

The proposal would help around 300 businesses supporting 60,000 jobs in the UK’s industrial heartlands. Looking at ways to reduce the cost of doing business for key industries would help secure the future of domestic manufacturing and maintain a competitive business environment in the UK, ensuring economic growth and protecting thousands of jobs across the country.

The Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme provides businesses with relief for the costs of renewable levies, including Contracts for Difference, the Renewable Obligation and Feed in Tariffs, in their energy bills.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “British manufacturers are the lifeblood of our economy and central to our plans to overcome this period of economic uncertainty.

“With global energy prices at record highs, it is essential we explore what more we can do to deliver a competitive future for those strategic industries so we can cut production costs and protect jobs across the UK.”

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Director General of UK Steel Gareth Stace said: “The publication of this consultation is a significant step forward in delivering competitive electricity prices for the UK steel sector and should provide some much-needed relief in the face of extremely challenging circumstances at the current time. While there remain difficulties, this announcement demonstrates that UK Government understands the challenges of British industry and continues to support steelmakers and steel communities across the country.”

(Lead image: Gareth James / Geograph / Creative Commons 2.0)

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Carmarthen

Health board completes first solar farm at its St Davids site in Carmarthen

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Hywel Dda University Health Board’s (UHB) first solar farm has been installed at Hafan Derwen, located on the Parc Dewi Sant site in Carmarthen.

The 1,098 panels have been installed on an area covering just over one acre. The 450 KW solar farm scheme aims to deliver on-site generated electricity directly to the Hafan Derwen site, which is estimated to lead to an annual carbon savings of 120.43tCo2e, along with financial savings.

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The surrounding land is being developed to enhance biodiversity providing an area for staffto rest and relax while surrounded by wildlife which will have a positive impact on how staff perceive their workplace and offer a respite from a busy working environment.

Paul Williams, head of property performance at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We are pleased to announce that the solar farm installation work is nearing completion at Hafan Derwen site and it is set to be operational later this summer. The solar project is one of the initiatives aimed at reducing our carbon footprint. The project will generate an on-site renewable energy and also create a greener, environment friendly space for staff with the planned bio-diversity park.

“This is yet another positive step in the direction of tapping on and exploring environment friendly, energy efficient solutions across health board sites.”

The solar farm project is part of the health board’s decarbonisation initiative. This is one of the many steps the health board is taking towards addressing the climate emergency.

In the last few years, roof mounted photovoltaic panels have been installed at nine sites across Hywel Dda, including at Amman Valley Hospital, Bro Cerwyn, Bronglais Hospital, Withybush Hospital, Milford Haven Health Centre, Pembroke Dock Health Centre, South Pembrokeshire Hospital, Llandovery and Cardigan Integrated Care Centres.

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In total, these schemes are estimated to save approximately 622,763 Kwh of electricity. Annual carbon savings from these projects are expected to be approximately 153 tCO2e.

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Energy

Farming union calls on UK governments to boost on-farm renewable energy production

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales says Governments must act to boost on-farm renewable energy production in order to increase the UK’s energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The call is one of five demands which form the FUW’s ‘Five point plan’, which comprises key actions which together will help relieve pressures for farmers, food producers and consumers in the immediate term, while bolstering food and energy security in the long term.

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Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The pandemic and the war on Ukraine has not only emphasised the vulnerability of our food supplies to global events that are beyond our control – it has also brought into sharper focus our reliance on global energy and fuel markets and supplies.”

“Many farmers already play a key role in reducing that exposure through renewable energy production, but we have only tapped into a fraction of what is possible,” he added.

Energy production using fossil fuels is second only to business in terms of contributions to Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions, and is the second highest contributor to emissions in the UK after transport.

In 2020, nearly 23% of the EU’s oil and petroleum imports came from Russia, while Russian oil imports previously accounted for 8% of UK demand. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter, followed by the USA and Qatar, and previously accounted for around 45% of EU gas imports.

“Our reliance on imported fuel and energy can be reduced by increasing domestic production, and farmers are keen to play their part.

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“However, we need the restoration of incentives for that to happen – and it must not come at the expense of food production and large areas of farmland,” said Mr Roberts.

Following the introduction of Feed in Tariffs in 2010, there was a rapid increase in renewable energy production on Welsh farmland, but this incentive was withdrawn in 2019 and growth in such production has levelled off significantly.

“Both the UK and Welsh Governments must step up efforts that restore growth in the industry by incentivising on-farm production of renewable energy – thereby reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and imported energy.

“The Welsh Government’s decision to remove business rate relief for privately-owned hydropower projects has also served as a significant barrier to investment, while obstacles such as landscape designations and disproportionate regulations continue to work against renewable energy production.

“Government must therefore seek to remove barriers and restore incentives in order to boost agriculture’s contribution to our energy security,” he added.

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(Lead image: FUW)

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