1] Across the UK there is a rolling programme of introducing LED light bulbs to STREET LAMPS but since this programme started, technology has moved on. In Northern Europe there are already solar powered street lamps being deployed, proven to work in our climate. Furthermore they can integrate all the requirements for the development of ‘smart cities’. Generating more electricity than they use, these solar lamp posts should be viewed as an asset class rather than a capital cost, as their excess capacity can be sold to the grid. SOLUTION: The government should mandate that all public sector tenders for street lighting must henceforth include a requirement for solar lamp posts to be evaluated against existing technologies so the opportunity is properly explored. Because of their asset class potential, street lighting upgrades and new installations might therefore be funded by private sector investors alleviating the cost from local authority budgets. Manufacturing and installation can be by UK employers. The World Economic Forum website carries details of the EU’s ambition to install 10 million smart lamp posts along these lines. We should follow suit.
2] The government has a strong commitment to renewable energy and yet sites for solar farms are hard to secure planning for. In Europe and beyond, CAR PARKS at hospitals, sports grounds, retail locations, workplaces, airports and train stations are adopting solar car ports that, as well as providing shelter from the elements for vehicles and their occupants, generate electricity to support electric vehicle charging (for which there is growing demand and insufficient supply currently) and can feed excess generation into the grid. Arguably the visual amenity of a solar farm is no worse than that of staring at a car park. SOLUTION: The government should ease planning rules and incentivise car park operators to install solar car ports wherever possible. According to the RAC Foundation there are between 17,000 and 20,000 non-residential car parks in the UK with between 3 and 4 million spaces. That equates to between 6 and 8 million standard solar panels – a significant increase in our solar farm capacity without impinging on farm land or the visual amenity of the countryside. That equates to at least 2425 acres of solar capacity. The UK’s largest solar park at Shotwick in North Wales covers 250 acres, has a capacity of 72.2 megawatts, reduces CO2 emissions by 202,000 tonnes each year and powers 11,000 homes. Covering our car parks with solar car ports has the potential to therefore provide at least ten times as much benefit as Shotwick. The government could go further and mandate all car park operators of over a certain size (say 20 or 50 bays) to undertake a commercial cost benefit analysis of installing solar car ports, by going out to tender. As with solar lamp posts, ca port solar farms would be an asset class that investors would support. Solar car ports can be manufactured and installed by existing UK facilities creating job opportunities.