Slough Borough Council invested in a new HQ Building – Observatory House – in 2018, bringing together staff from different sites across the town. Although it was a modern and energy-efficient building, we wanted to do more to decrease its carbon footprint while facilitating low-emission travel. To achieve this, we installed a large solar array – 154 panels generating 50 KW – on the roof, along with 13 electric vehicle charging stations, including one rapid charger.
The solar panels were installed through the RE:FIT programme – an energy efficiency and renewable energy refurbishment scheme. The Council has used the programme to improve energy efficiency across its corporate building estate, with the first phase generating annual savings of £28,053 in energy costs and reducing CO2 emissions by 138 tonnes across 11 sites.
At Observatory House, solar PV was a natural choice as energy consumption is highest during daylight hours. The energy generated by the solar array contributes to powering our electric vehicle charging stations. These, in turn, support our fleet of six electric staff pool vehicles as well as other electric vehicles in use across the council. By encouraging staff to use green transport to carry out daily tasks, from meetings to site visits, we can reduce the use of private vehicles and cut emissions and air pollution on our roads. Further sustainable changes at Observatory House include a heat pump system and a living wall.
We have set a target for carbon neutrality for the Council and its operations by 2030. In December 2021, we are set to publish our Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan with a target for carbon neutrality across the whole borough by 2040 (with a stretch target of 2030). This is in addition to our Lower Emissions Strategy which sets out plans to increase air quality across Slough.
To meet these ambitious targets, it’s vital that we look at decarbonising our buildings estate and get fossil-fuel-powered vehicles off the road. The changes we have made at Observatory House are an important part of this story and we continue to look for opportunities to make sustainable improvements across the borough.
Our advice to other councils would be that switching to renewable energy and electric vehicles not only reduces carbon emissions but makes good business sense.
Solar panels generate their own electricity which offsets their costs against electricity bills over a period of time, and the running costs of electric vehicles are much lower, meaning they are cheaper than combustion vehicles over their lifetime. By reducing dependency on fossil fuels for energy and transport other co-benefits are realised such as improved air quality through decreasing air pollution.
Reduction in energy costs.