Solar panel deal costs council £275,000… But were switched off due to fire risk

Solar panels

Solar panels on Aberdeen City Council buildings have cost the taxpayer nearly £300,000 – despite them being switched off due to fire risks.

The council entered into an agreement with Mark Group Ltd and Our Generation Ltd for the supply and installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels to council buildings.

Under the terms of the deal, signed in April 2012, the authority had an obligation to pay loss of generation income to Our Generation Solar.

But the panels were switched off by the council “following several thermal events” which had to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.

Due to the agreement the council had to pay £275,000 to the firm for their loss of earnings, despite the equipment not being on.

Tomorrow, the authority’s audit committee will meet discuss the shut-down.

A report to committee reads: “Subsequent to the installation of the PV Panels there were three thermal events that were classed as RIDDOR incidents (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and

Dangerous Occurrences) that required to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.

“Following these incidents the Mark Group were instructed by the council having considered all risk factors to switch off all systems as a precautionary measure to ensure buildings and their

inhabitants were safe.

“Due to the actions of the council a number of sites did not generate income for the contractor which resulted in them being due payment for the loss of income under the terms of the contract.”

Liberal Democrat committee member Martin Greig said the contract had proved to be “an expensive mistake”.

He said: “This project was designed to save money but has instead ended up costing the public purse well over a quarter of a million pounds in unwanted compensation costs.

“It is vital to explore and adopt money saving energy schemes but in this case the whole initiative has suffered from a lack of joined up thinking.

“We need to adopt more sustainable energy solutions and it is a real worry that this negative experience could discourage further investment in solar energy or other means of generating cheaper power.”

Infrastructure Neil Cooney said the council had “no option” but to switch off the panels if safety was at risk.

But he added: “It’s sad that money was misspent, the idea was a good one but the practicalities didn’t work out.”