Lewes Football Club set to be solar power station

THE Dripping Pan, home of Lewes Football Club, could soon be generating electricity into the National Grid.

Plans to make the Mountfield Road site a community-owned solar power station are being investigated after a similar scheme at Harveys Brewery hit a setback.

Lewes FC are in talks with Ovesco Limited regarding the possibility of installing a solar array on the roof of one of the stands. The two projects would run in tandem.

The news follows a government announcement of a reduced feed-in tariff (FIT) for solar arrays - a move described by Ovesco as a “serious setback for renewable energy”.

It has hit the company’s plans for a solar roof on Harveys’ storage depot in Daveys Lane, Lewes.

Greg Baker, the Climate Change Minister, said on Friday that any scheme not installed by August 1 this year would not receive 30.7p per kilowatt hour of electricity up to 100kW, but only 19p above 50kW. The Ovesco and Harveys installation would have a capacity of 98kW.

But two separate installations each earning the full rate could keep the scheme afloat - which is where Lewes FC is hoping to come to the rescue, utilising the south-facing roof of the Rookery Stand.

Chris Rowland, of Lewes-based Ovesco, said: “It’s astonishing that a cut of this magnitude can be announced just like that.

“Our scheme ticks all the government boxes: community-owned, community-funded and a real contribution to energy security and environmental benefit.

“We shall do everything we can to persuade the minister to change his mind on this. We are not a massive multi-national organisation milking the public purse for profit, but a local voluntary enterprise trying to do our bit for society.”

Ovesco has made it plain that it is not going to give up even if the minister is impervious to the company’s arguments. It hopes to get the 98kW solar array on the Harveys warehouse before the deadline, but if that proves impossible it will seek a way to generate at least the same amount of electricity from other sites. It has already received three other requests from site owners to help them generate solar energy.

Mr Rowland continued: “It doesn’t make economic sense. The smaller the installation, the more it costs to generate each unit of electricity.

“Economies of scale are important when the work involves scaffolding and electrical connections. And here in the south-east we have more sunshine hours than anywhere else in the country.

“We are not beaten, though. It is our mission eventually to generate enough electricity in the Lewes area to sell electricity directly to local people - our own sunshine turned into our own energy.”

Alex Leith, a Community Board member of Lewes FC, said: “When we heard there were potential problems with Ovesco’s plans to generate solar power from the roof of Harveys Depot, we thought we could come in and help.

“Our Rookery Stand has a large, south-facing roof, which might be ideal for Ovesco’s purpose, and the group are going to examine the possibilities of using it for this community power project.

“We are delighted if we can be of assistance - especially if the project can also help raise money, in the long run, for the club. This is a community project and we are a community club, so it’s a match made in heaven.”