One of the UK’s largest local authority-owner solar farms, based in Suffolk, has generated more than £1.3m of income in its second year.

Forest Heath District Council invested nearly £14.5m to acquire the 12.4MW solar farm at Toggam Farm in Lakenheath in 2016. The farm, whose purchase was based on a 25-year, independently produced model, has performed marginally better than expected, generating 12,258MWh (megawatt hours), which is slightly above the 11,649MWh estimated. The electricity was sold on through the National Grid, and was enough to power around 3,300 homes and offset the carbon dioxide emissions from 1,500 cars. It has also helped Forest Heath establish itself as a carbon neutral council. Once various costs are taken into account, it has generated £372,300 for council services.

Cllr Stephen Edwards, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance at Forest Heath District Council, said: “I am proud of this investment and what it will help us achieve on behalf of our communities for many years to come.”

“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 our 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. By year 10 it will reach approximately £700,000, a net return of around 5% after running costs and the repayment of our capital investment has been taken into account. That money in turn will help toward funding the everyday public services that we provide and that we know our residents and businesses hold dear. ”

At the moment the project is for 25 years but the council can look to extend beyond that nearer the time. The income generated comes from a mix of selling electricity into the National Grid and income guaranteed from the Government for a 20-year-period though Renewable Obligation Certificates.