Fire brigade tackles burning issue

The UK's first solar powered fire station was unveiled in Richmond this week as the London Fire Brigade vowed to face up to its environmental responsibilities.

The station has been fitted with PV panels expected to supply up to three quarters of the electricity demand and the rest of its energy will be bought from green supplier Good Energy.

Val Shawcross, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, told edie: “As a fire authority we find ourselves in the front line of dealing with the effects of climate change.

“The fire brigade is now dealing with flash floods, storm damage and other sever weather incidents so we are facing the problem first hand.

“Also as we run a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year service that does lead to quite high energy use, so we wanted to do something to reduce our carbon output.”

Apart from the obvious symbolic value of installing highly visible PV panels on a prominent public building, Ms Shawcross said there were practical and financial arguments for micro-renewables.

“We’ve found that buying green energy on the market can be very difficult at times,” she said.

“There have been auctions where either there wasn’t any to buy, or the premium got very high.

“We hope this is the first of many, we are already looking at fitting another ten stations and also have pilots lined up for a wind turbine in Hayes and solar thermal in Tooting.”

She said the fire brigade going green was all part of the wider GLA strategy of reducing London’s environmental footprint.

The roof was part funded by a £65,000 grant from the DTI’s Solar Photo Voltaic Major Demonstration Programme and the fire brigade received technical advice from the London Climate Change Agency.

“We helped in a number of ways, such as identifying a green energy company which would buy back their surplus energy and provide them with Renewable Obligation Certificates,” said Allan Jones, chief development officer for the agency.

“The fact electricity will flow in both directions is important for a project like this.”

He said that while solar installations on this scale had a typical payback period of 15 to 20 years, the panels would be fit for purpose well beyond that and it would still be powering the station in 60 years time.

By Sam Bond

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