PLANS for West Sussex County Council to invest up to £5m on a giant new solar farm in Tangmere have been approved.
The former airfield site measures the equivalent of 58 football pitches and the new farm could generate up to £16m for the council over 20 years.
A planning application has been submitted and is pending approval.
At a county council performance and finance select committee meeting last Thursday (December 4), members agreed to support investment.
Cllr Michael Brown, cabinet member for finance, said: “The outline business case is to invest £4m to install these solar panels and over a 20-year period it will make around £13m.
“We are using Carillion as consultants in this, and they have indicated the site could be increased from a four-megawatt capacity to five megawatts.
“That would mean investment from us would be up from £4m to £5m, which would increase our return to something like £16m over the 20 years.”
Cllr Brown said maintenance costs would be low, and though the amount of power generated after 20 years would be less, it would still generate a profit.
The council owns the land and had considered other options, such as selling it for £150,000 or leasing it for farming.
Cllr Steve Waight said although a £3.2m underspend in the council’s capital reserves was allocated for the project, he questioned where the other £1.8m would come from. He also questioned the ‘basic mathematics’ in the business case which he said did not take into account degradation of efficiency or falling oil prices.
A full business case will now be prepared with the changes and be presented for final approval.