Solar - FAQ's
Manx Utilities has done considerable work with its consultants completing feasibility work and technical studies to determine the best locations for Public Estate solar arrays. A number of sites were found to be suitable for solar installations, however if every site was to be utilised, solar generation in the summer would exceed the demand. There is therefore no national need to install so much solar and we have limited the sites to those which deliver the lowest cost per kWh generated to ensure the best value for customers.
The initial developments will take place in the Douglas area, which is the strongest part of the network. These developments are the NSC, Nobles Hospital and the Sea Terminal.
The remaining developments will be located across the Island, between 2024 and 2026 which will enable the network to be reinforced to accommodate solar in these regions. The developments include deployment on schools and on other public buildings and carparks across our Island:
BENEFITTING CUSTOMERS BY:
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN SITES
NORTHERN AND CENTRAL SITES
All sites being targeted are Brownfield sites which means the environmental impact is as low as possible.
The projects are scheduled to be completed between 2024 and 2026 to support our aim to deliver at least 10MW of local solar renewable generation.
We are aiming to deploy at least 10MW of SolarPV. This will be across different publicly owned buildings and carparks in our island.
While demand is lowest in the summer and solar output is highest in the summer, solar projects can be deployed very quickly. These installations will help to provide renewable electricity to all customers on our Island. And therefore every customer can benefit from these installations.
Solar is very suitable to repurpose roofs and carparks across the public estate to assist in delivering our transition to renewable energy. It is also very quick to deploy; our target is to deliver this capacity from 2024 onwards.
There are also environmental benefits because brown-field sites are being utilised. This will ensure the lowest possible impact to our Island environment and the lowest biodiversity loss when compared to deployment on greenfield, grassland, or arable land solar deployments.
The generation output from solar depends on the position of the panels, their orientation, and angle to the sun, and of course the prevailing weather conditions however; our studies have suggested a deployment of 10MWp could yield between 7.9 and 9.6GWh/year. By 2026 there is also anticipated to be at least 10MWp additional solar from domestic and commercial small-scale rooftop installations which could also yield between a further 7.9 and 9.6GWh/year. This would result in the network demand reducing by the self consumption of the sites with the surplus fed into the network.
Assuming the gas-powered generation at Pulrose is reduced to accommodate the solar installations, we estimate the deployment of solar arrays across the public estate could realise reductions of c.3100 – 4800 tonnes of CO2 per year.
There are other countries exploring this. France has already passed laws mandating solar panels be fitted to large carparks to assist with their green transition. The European Commission proposed a solar rooftop requirement for commercial and public buildings from 2027 in response to the Ukraine crisis.
Manx Utilities will own the public solar generators, with Government Departments benefiting from lease payments for supporting the installations. Solar panels will be fitted to publicly owned buildings and carparks which has been determined to have the lowest environmental impact.
Manx Utilities will utilise a framework approach for this project enabling as much involvement from local installers and designers as possible. This will provide a boost to the local economy over a multi-stage commissioning process.
It is anticipated arrays of this size and capacity will last at least 35yrs.
Renewable generation is by its nature intermittent and dependant on the weather. Our transition to renewable energy will involve a mix of generation including solar, onshore wind, interconnectors, and local carbon neutral on demand generation. This diverse mix of generation involves solar as part of our plans.
The cost of generating electricity a unit of electricity from solar can be lower than the cost of generating from fossil fuels such as gas at the point of generation. However, the total system costs for all intermittent renewable power is expected to be higher because balancing the system is more challenging when predicting output is dependent on the weather forecast.
Current projections indicate that the project will not significantly reduce the cost of electricity.
The most significant cost in the deployment of solar is the ancillary electrical equipment such as inverters with the number of solar panels installed actually making little difference in the total cost. By targeting the largest sites for solar, the cost to customers is ultimately lower per Megawatt hour capacity installed as there are more solar panels relative to the higher cost electrical infrastructure.
A number of school sites will be targeted in the later stages of the project, providing funding is approved though only the sites with the best potential will be targeted.
Rooftop solar is a permitted development under the Building Regulations, 2014. This means rooftop solar projects do not require planning permission unless we are planning to install within a conservation area. None of the projects are within conservation areas and subsequently none of our rooftop projects require planning which makes deliverability within the next 2 years possible.
The Climate Plan 2022 – 2027 requires the decarbonisation of public buildings including energy saving measures such as the installation of solar panels; our objective is in line with this commitment.
The main driver for our solar project is that it can be delivered quickly which would require us to utilise rooftops because of planning. There is no ‘national need’ for solar relative to wind given the demand profiles so the only benefit is the speed at which it can be delivered
In order for us to consider field-based solar we would be required to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and demonstrate that we had selected the best possible site, not just a location which Government owned. This would take several years so the benefit of ‘quick delivery’ is then removed.
The Isle of Man Strategic Plan, 2016, references 8 exceptions which can be utilised for any project which is not currently mentioned in any of the local area plans, providing it is line with the strategic aims. These are detailed below:
Isle of Man Strategic Plan, 2016
Unlike onshore wind, there is no demonstrable difference in resource availability across the Island from a solar perspective once we take into account the network (so General Policy 3 of the Isle of Man Strategic Plan, 2016 caveats cannot be used) and it would be challenging to demonstrate that any site we selected for development was the best location against an environmental impact. Given we can develop on Brownfield sites, it makes the chances of receiving a approved planning application for greenfield solar very low so there is a high risk for delivery for field-based solar vs. rooftop/car-park solar.
The fact there is almost no ecological impact with car-park solar makes it the best location regardless of cost, though there is also limited difference in cost at the scale we are thinking about. The slightly higher cost does not override the ecological impact from a planning perspective especially given there is no ecological need.
It would be very difficult to argue we should progress with a field-based solar option when others will likely be refused planning permission on the basis that there isn’t a national need and the ecological cost is high.
There could also a double benefit for a site like Nobles hospital if there is a desire to install a second storey for car parking; the solar could be installed on the roof of the car park without additional planning.
In short, field based solar has a very high risk of delivery when we must consider all possible options.
Information on the safety statistics of various generation technologies is available on our Transition Programme FAQs page.