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Business & Economy

£8.3 million low-carbon development and solar energy farm coming to County Durham

A transport depot in County Durham is set to benefit from an innovative £8.3 million low-carbon retrofit, including a solar farm that will generate green energy for the local council’s fleet of electric vehicles.

A team of consultants, led by the Durham-based architect Howarth Litchfield, is delivering the eco-friendly project on behalf of Durham County Council on a site at Annfield Plain, County Durham.

The Morrison Busty Low Carbon Depot will include a large scale three-megawatt solar farm located in an adjacent green field, along with electric vehicle charging points to support the council’s transition to an electric fleet.

The depot’s natural gas heating will also be replaced with air source heat pumps, and main office buildings will be refurbished with highly efficient cladding, windows, and doors to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage.

The plans also include an innovative high-capacity battery storage facility will ensure that solar energy can be used wherever possible.

Morrison Busty’s retrofit will save an estimated 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and reduce the council’s overall emissions by up to four per cent.

This low carbon project is the latest development in the council’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from its operations by 80 per cent by 2030, with the hopes of becoming fully carbon neutral by 2050.

To win the tender, Howarth Litchfield assembled a team of local consultants, choosing trusted professional firms from the company’s supply chain to help minimise the carbon footprint of its team.

Howarth Litchfield is acting as lead consultant as well as providing architecture and principal designer services, while consulting engineers TGA will provide general mechanical and electrical support for the solar energy farm. Multidisciplinary engineering consultancy Cundall is providing civil engineering and geotechnical advice.

The council’s construction consultancy service and low carbon economy teams are also working closely together to deliver this project.

The Council received £5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to cover the cost of the retrofit and will also contribute an additional £3.3 million from its own Invest to Save fund.

Oliver Sherratt, Durham County Council’s head of environment, said: “The solar farm will reduce the carbon emissions of the site’s buildings by replacing natural gas heating with air source heat pumps while innovative battery storage will ensure as much solar generation will be used on site as possible.

“By making energy efficiency improvements and switching to more sustainable sources of power, we are not only reducing carbon emissions in our own operations, but also reducing emissions for the whole county, in line with our ambition to tackle climate change.”

The project is scheduled for completion in April 2023.