Is Hastings to become a solar powered town?

WITH an average of just 1,750 sunshine hours a year, Hastings isn’t an obvious place to push solar-power..

However two leading figures in town are doing just that by calling on people to switch to solar and other alternative forms of energy.

Councillor Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, aired his views on his blog this week.

He said: “There are now a number of companies offering deals for those who would like to purchase solar panels for their homes. This is both to generate electricity for their own use, and to take advantage of the Government’s feed in tariff and get paid for the extra electricity they can sell on to the national grid.

“Some companies also offer to basically lease a resident’s roof for 25 years and to install free solar panels for them. This gives the resident free electricity during daylight hours and can save hundreds of pounds a year, especially with prices going up.”

Cllr Birch said he had already spoken with one local firm which plans to install 4,000 free panels by next spring.

AmicusHorizon housing association is already contacting its own tenants after signing a deal with another company to put up free panels, Cllr Birch said.

He added: “Not every property is suitable. Ideally they have to be south facing to maximise the benefit of sunlight and probably they should be no more than two storeys high. But all this does seem to offer a boost to tackling climate change and to tackling fuel poverty at the same time.”

Janak Patel, principal of Sussex Coast College Hastings (SCCH), said he ‘wholeheartedly supported’ Cllr Birch’s idea.

He said: “We do have an alternative energy centre on the Castleham Industrial Estate where we train people on how to install wind-powered generators and solar panels. Our college buildings in Station Plaza have also been designed to be more environmentally friendly.

“We should be promoting this more as Hastings has plenty of sun and wind which can be used as forms of energy.”

Mr Patel added that it was his aim to turn SCCH into a One Planet college, whereby environmentalism would be instilled across the curriculum.

He said: “All of our students should have an in-depth knowledge of environmental issues such as reducing carbon output. This concept would be about teaching our students to be more environmentally friendly whatever their course is.

“The whole of Hastings should get involved in this because of its location and there is already a lot of environmentally friendly industry set up here. It could generate employment and income in the region.”

With the town’s population standing at more than 87,000, and with an average of eight to 16 solar panels needed to fully power a family home, it would appear that converting this part of 1066 Country to such alternative energy would be a monumental undertaking.

And despite the optimism of Mr Birch and Mr Patel, Hastings’s green credentials are less than desirable.

The town currently recycles only 28 per cent of its waste, far below the national average of 35 per cent.

And last month Hastings topped a survey of local authorities in Sussex blighted by the scourge of fly tipping.

The town had 3,448 incidents of people illegally dumping rubbish in the streets last year, according to figures released by waste removal firm anyjunk.co.uk.

But for anyone thinking of heeding the council leader’s advice and going solar, more information is available at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy/Solar-electricity.

The information centre at the town hall is also stocking leaflets and contact details for solar panel companies.