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Sun is shining on Forest Heath's solar farm

Cllr Stephen Edwards (3581726)
Cllr Stephen Edwards (3581726)

The sun has continued to shine on a council-run solar farm with it beating its earnings expectation for the second year running.

Forest Heath District Council’s Toggam Farm solar plant, in Lakenheath, generated £1.3 million of income and £372,300 in profit – more than £40,000 higher than forecast.

The money earned from selling the power into the National Grid and is used to fund council services.

Figures for the 12 months to the end of July it has generated enough energy to power around 3,300 homes and offset the carbon dioxide emissions from 1,500 cars.

Cllr Stephen Edwards, cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “The business case for investing in the solar farm looked at independent data on how it was likely to perform, and it was this that gave councillors, of all political persuasion, the confidence to vote in favour of the investment. What we are now seeing is that the solar farm is performing exactly how we said it would.

“More importantly it has taken capital, which can’t be used to simply prop up the costs of day to day services as eventually it would run dry, and it has created a decent level of annual income –income which we know will rise significantly over the years.”

Forest Heath bought the 12.4MW Toggam Farm in 2016 for £14.5 million and is set to continue operating the solar plant for the next 25 years –but can look to extend its life nearer the time.

One of the largest council- owned solar farms in the country, the project is part of Forest Heath’s bid to diversify its income after heavy cuts in central government funding. In 2013 the Revenue Support Grant made up 16 per cent of Forest Heath’s budget but by 2020 the government grant will drop to zero.