Last year the Forest of Dean District Council and a leisure centre and school in the town of Lydney signed a green Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing, and committing to reduce carbon emissions and introduce other sustainability measures. Community solar, as part of the AURORA project, became the logical next step and a roof top solar PV installation project was developed. Lydney Leisure Centre is owned by the Forest of Dean District Council and managed and operated by Freedom Leisure Lydney. The secondary school, The Dean Academy, is owned by The Athelstan Trust. All partners could see the benefits to the environment, the community, and the sustainability and ongoing viability of the buildings.
Once complete, solar PV panels will feature on the swimming pool roof and a range of other buildings across the leisure centre and school site, providing at least 200 kWp of cheap renewable energy to both Freedom Leisure and The Dean Academy. The solar panels will be community owned, and anyone will be able to buy single or multiple shares, receiving an annual dividend payment at a 5% interest rate. Contracts and specification documents are being finalised and it is anticipated that the share offer will be launched locally in early summer 2023, with the installation being completed in the school summer holidays or early autumn.
Angela Brown, Freedom Leisure said:
“Operating a leisure centre, particularly with a swimming pool, can use a lot of energy. Working with local partners and putting measures in place to reduce our carbon emissions and rising energy costs can only be good for our service, the planet, and the community we serve.”
Once complete this AURORA project solar PV installation will provide a great case study and blueprint for other schools and leisure centres in the Forest of Dean. It may also be the catalyst for additional projects at the Lydney site such as battery storage for the solar energy, installation of electric vehicle charging points in the car parks or heat pumps for the buildings themselves to replace gas boilers.