Thames Water deal to install over 5 MW

The £7 million (US$11.48 million) deal will see Ennoviga finance, own and maintain the photovoltaic arrays, selling the electricity back to Thames Water at rates expected to be below market rates. Thames Waters hopes to save £100,00 (US$164,000) per year, off its electricity bill, in the deal.

Piers Clark, commercial director at Thames Water, said in a statement announcing the deal, "With the price of energy forecast to increase above inflation, the way we’ve structured this agreement will give us cheaper, renewable source of power from a secure source over the long term."

The installations will be spread across three sites that have been described as being "otherwise unusable". After the initial three installations are completed, Thames Water hopes to install photovoltaic systems at up to 100 smaller locations.

The three installations vary in nature and include a 450 kilowatt (kW) array on a desalination plant; on storm tanks built in the 1800s, an installation expansion to 1.7 megawatts (MW); and on redundant sand filters at a water treatment works, an expansion to a plant worth 3 MW.

The three installations are part of a plan by Thames Water to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2015. An independent report recently confirmed that Thames Water has achieved reductions of 11.4 percent, despite serving many more customers than previously.

Stefano Gambro, of Ennoviga took the opportunity of announcing the partnership to criticize the U.K. Government over the changes to its feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme. "The UK is running late on building new power generation to replace its ageing power stations. The FIT scheme was launched in April 2010 to provide a stable investment climate so private investors would build this new capacity, and at the same time make Britain’s electricity cleaner."

The expansion of two of the installations, to 1.7 MW and 3 MW, is intended to exploit a loophole in the government’s recent FIT changes, where-by existing projects can be expanded and still qualify for FITs. FIT payments for projects larger that 150kW were reduced by around 70 percent, in a move that some have commented, make them entirely unviable. Whether the loophole allowing for the expansion of existing installations will be closed to prevent this and therefore the Thames Water plan, is as yet unclear.