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Monday, February 04, 2013

Cereste solar farm revenues called into question by industry expert

Perhaps they had it right?  Not all changes are for the better...
Julian Bray comments: Chris York,  the Stanground, Peterborough community activist, secretary of the NW Cambridgeshire Labour Party has neatly lobbed a virtual exocet missile into the financial veracity of the national solar energy debate, and in particular, the Peterborough City Council headlong blind adventure into this speculative market. 

Chris York calls into question the glowing support of the 'sunshine boy' Leader of the Council Cllr. Marco Cereste. His calculations are, claims York, little more than guesswork on the back of a cigarette packet. The deal is wrapped in a cloak of commercial confidentiality, but if you look at the reasoned case presented by Mr.York below (who actually works in the industry),  and if the elected members can put an end to the robotic voting of the controlling conservative majority party seemingly directed by Cllr Cereste, then we might get somewhere. 

Simply putting politics aside, and dealing with hard nosed open accounting ( ie all figures and outcomes laid out on the table) by the time the Cereste inspired mega solar farm adventure is actually producing a small surplus, the home political landscape could well have changed and Marco and family enjoying a sunny retirement at his Italian estate under endless Italian sunshine. ....  Holding onto that image, contrast that with the reality presented below:  


Have a look at the figures for the former Freemans Peterborough Warehouse building, to assist, the calculations to support the figures and explanatory comments are also included. Calculations are taken from SMA Sunny Design software using high efficiency (German manufactured)  SCHOTT Poly 220 panels as the model.

Mr York claims that part of the current Peterborough City Council budget cuts are making up for a shortfall in this solar farm adventure.  Once we all know the number of panels per site for the proposed energy park then we can properly calculate approximate  any revenue streams. 

 FiT rates will also be further reduced on 1st May 2013!!

General Info PV (photovoltac) Roof Installation to TESAM (Previously Freemans) Warehouse Building

It is worth noting this is a completely separate project from  the PCC 'Cereste' solar farms currently proposed. This scheme was however, was the first identified by the Peterborough City Council to kickstart its renewable generation agenda, and was the subject of a Cabinet decision on 13th June 2011.

Was this scheme completed in its entirety?

The Council was seeking a 1.5MW installation on the TESAM warehouse roof.. This would have been achieved in the relevant timescales for accreditation, save for the Department of Energy and Climate
Change (DECC) making a unilateral reduction in the feed in tariff associated with installations
of that size.  Council members may recall that this swift action by DECC was due to the
unexpected huge volume of solar projects which potentially could have made the support for solar
by the Government under the FiT regime unsustainable in the long term. 

 DECC rushed through the legislative change without full consultation. 

The Peterbrough City Council let the project prior to any decision by DECC to cut FiT for large scale solar installations continue.  The cuts were announced during the installation phase. It is worth noting also that the proposed reduction in  FiT changes were announced in July 2011, approx. 1 month after the PCC cabinet decision.

The strategy the Council adopted was to build out as much solar PV on the TESAM rooftop
as was possible at the higher rates until the cut off date. 

Before the cut-off date PV panels equivalent to circa 206kW were placed.

What was the actual cost?   £946,684:00

Total amount invoiced to date by the contractor (including the additional seagull prevention
and electrical modification works) is £946,684:00.

Was the finance borrowed and if so at what rate of interest?

The Council’s standard approach to financing capital investment is through borrowing. The
 borrowing approach was applied to this project. 

The interest rate for 25 year loans from the Public Works Board Loan (PWLB) on 1st November 2011 was 4.3%. It should be noted that the Peterborough City Council  undertakes borrowing for the capital programme as a whole, it does not arrange separate loans for each individual project.

Was the interest rate fixed and over what period?

Peterbrough City Council typically borrows over 25 years. Currently all loans are at fixed rates (as reported
to Audit Committee recently in the Treasury Management update).

What is the yearly amount that has to be paid back to include interest and repayment
of capital?

Annual costs of interest and repayment on £947k at 4.3% is £62k per annum

What is the exact rate of income, over and above all costs, now being produced per

As PV panels are at their optimum output when new, they will deteriorate on a gradual basis
over the life of the installation.

 What is the projected income taking year one as the base level?
With a yearly percentage reduction of income thereafter when taking into account that the
interest on the loan and maintenance will increase?

The rate of income is a confidential matter. The reasons for confidentiality will be
notified to Group Leaders in the near future. Chris York suggests that he has seen the figures but following legal advice, he is not currently in a position  to disclose the information.  

Below for discussion purposes are financial calculations using accredited solar panel accounting software. The figures are indicative and the discussion with Group Leaders above
will hopefully clarify the exact rate of income in greater detail, therefore the income and costs on a PV scheme such as this will vary as follows:

 interest and repayment costs are fixed each year (based on the fixed interest rate and
the annuity method of repayment) and do not increase

 maintenance and insurance costs are indexed linked

 Panel performance does deteriorate, and an industry standard degradation rate has
been used in all of our projections and financial models

 Income from FiT and sales is indexed linked and increases

As such the surplus raised fluctuates year on year. For a 206kW scheme, this ranges  from a small
deficit in the early years, through to a predicted surplus in the majority of years.

Overall, the forecasts indicate that there should be net income to the Council over the 25
years, after all costs, including build costs have been taken off.

It was reported at the time that Mears would be given the contract for the
installation. If this is correct, did Mears sub-contract the work and if so who to?

It was not reported that Mears would be given the contract. Mears were not involved in the
Freemans Building (Tesam). Enterprise were procured under an OJEU and acted as Main
Contractor with works packages subcontracted to Applied Sustainable Energy where

It is important to note that as from Dec 12th 2011 the feed in tariff rates dropped from 15p to 12.9p. This came into effect for all installations completed by midnight 12th Dec 2011.

Installations completed after the 12th Dec 2011 were paid at the rate of 15p until the 1st April
2012 when it reduced to 12.9p. The export rate was 3.1p, the Fit and export rates are RIP
linked approx 2% per year.  Although the income increases over the duration of the Fit
contract, the panels will start to deteriorate after approx. 10 years down to approx. 80%
between 20-25 years. 

More expensive panels such as SCHOTT and BP do have a slightly higher efficiency over this period.

Example Financials (approx calculation)
180,000 kWh (approx) generated @ 12.9p = £23,220 per year
90,000 kWh (approx) exported @ 3.1p = £2,790 per year

Total Revenue per year £26,010
Possible Resale Of Energy (assuming 50% generated power sold to tenant) @ 7.5p per kWh
could generate an additional £6,750 per year

Approx Income £32,760 per year

Interest payable on borrowing is £62k per year over 25 years

POLICE 101, Emergency 999, Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 & NEWSDESK 01733 345581 E&OE
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