Installation of one of the UK’s largest public solar car ports at Oxford City Council’s Leys Pools and Leisure Centre in Blackbird Leys has taken place.
A canopy over 48 car-parking spaces, featuring more than 350 solar panels, will deliver over 80,000 kilo-watt hours (kWh) of green electricity to the Leys Pool and Leisure Centre per year, enough to power about 25 homes.
The £175k Solar carport, commissioned by Oxford City Council with support from Fusion Lifestyle, has been installed by 3TiEnergyHubs Ltd, further reducing carbon emissions from the council’s own buildings. The project is ca 90% funded by the Salix Recycling Fund, which match funds public sector organisations in investing in energy efficient technology.
The £9m Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, was upgraded in 2015, and houses a 25m pool with movable floor, crèche, badminton courts, and more. Leys pools also hosts a 122kW solar panel installation on the roof of the swimming pool building which, combined with the car port, provides a total of around 190,000kWh or over 23% of the building’s annual electricity needs.
Oxford City Council has reduced its own carbon footprint by 10% - more than 900 tonnes - in the last year, with council’s carbon emissions falling by over 40% in the last four years. The reduction in the last year is the equivalent amount of CO2 produced by a single car driving 2.9 million miles.
Solar energy plays an important role in the council’s decarbonisation. The City Council is now generating the equivalent of 12% of its annual electricity consumption from PV on its own buildings. Alongside the Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, roof top solar panels generate green electricity at Rose Hill Community Centre, Horspath Depot and St Aldate’s Chambers among other sites across the city council estate.
The City Council has also improved the energy efficiency of its social housing stock through the installation of PV on 214 council houses.
The City Council is responsible for 1% of emissions in Oxford, with the University of Oxford as the largest contributor to the city’s footprint at 8% of total emissions.
Oxford City Council declared a climate emergency at the start of 2019. Following this the council announced its plans to be the first UK city to hold a Citizens Assembly on the issue – the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change.
The Assembly tested members’ ambition for taking forward carbon-reduction measures across five themes, which included renewable energy.
Assembly members asked to vote on the question: “The UK has legislation to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. Should Oxford be more proactive and seek to achieve ‘net zero’ sooner than 2050?” Thirty seven out of 41 of the Assembly members said ‘yes’.
In the final report, produced by Ipsos MORI, Assembly Members were surprised at the amount of work already being done in Oxford regarding renewable energy and the high proportion of homes and buildings that already have solar panels installed.
Assembly Members also suggested that the council and national government should provide guidance in helping to make the transition to new sources of power.
In response to the recommendations of the Assembly, the City Council will be installing renewable energy across its sites, and will continue to support community renewable energy projects.
“I’m thrilled that the Leys Pool and Leisure Centre has become a power station for public good. By installing one of the UK’s largest public solar carports, Oxford City Council has leapt forward in our journey to become a Zero Carbon Council in 2020. By powering our public spaces with renewable energy, the Council is able to give our citizens a direct stake in moving to a Zero Carbon Oxford. The days of fossil fuels have to be numbered. Our shift to renewable, and especially solar, energy is gaining pace and gives us the opportunity to put into practice the recommendations of our Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford
"Fusion are delighted to be working together with Oxford City Council on such a pioneering project within the leisure industry. The new solar powered car parking facility at Leys Pools, demonstrates our on-going commitment to finding new ways to utilise renewable energy, not only for the Oxford community, but in time, across the entire Fusion estate”
Graham Ashby, Business Manager from Fusion Lifestyle