Solar panels not working on a quarter of council buildings



Questioning by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that solar panels are not currently functional at a quarter of council sites, and that panels at Hornsey Library, installed in October 2020, have only been switched on for the first time this week after the matter was escalated to senior officers.

After receiving information from the Friends of Hornsey Library that the panels were not working, and had in fact never been switched on since their installation at Hornsey Library two years ago, Liberal Democrat councillors performed a further investigation on all council sites that contain solar panels, and discovered that of 39 sites, nine have solar panels not in operation (23%).

Solar panels are installed across council buildings to ensure energy is coming from a sustainable, carbon neutral source, but also to save taxpayers’ money - which has never been more important than during current soaring energy prices.

At the point of investigation, panels were reported to be not functioning on eight other council-owned buildings:

  • 49 Winkfield Road (faulty)
  • Rhodes Avenue School (faulty)
  • Shelley House (not working)
  • Spanswick Lodge (not working)
  • The Octagon (faulty)
  • 2 Bedford Road (not working)
  • Birkbeck Lodge (not working)
  • Sophia House (faulty)

The council were unable to provide details of the total financial cost or carbon cost to the council from the panels not operating, nor how long each of the panels have been off for.

However, the council has estimated that not having the panels switched on at Hornsey Library could have cost taxpayers £1,200 this year in paying for additional energy from the grid, without taking account of any excess electricity that could have been sold back, or the carbon impact. The Energy Saving Trust has previously said that using solar panels cuts an average energy bill by 15-25%, and this may grow given increases in wholesale gas prices.

Cllr Scott Emery (LD – Highgate), Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Environment, said:

“It is totally crazy that, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, in large part down to soaring energy costs, the council has failed to turn on the solar panels on Hornsey Library for two years, and that a quarter of council buildings with solar panels don’t actually have them running. Not only is this a failure in terms of our net zero carbon commitments, it is a major expense to taxpayers to have to pick up the tab for the more expensive energy the council is buying. 

“Thankfully the Friends of Hornsey Library discovered and raised this matter and the library solar panels have now been switched on for the first time in two years, but we urge the council to look to get their full stock of panels in operation as soon as possible.”

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