1,000 solar panels planned for roof of Harrogate Convention Centre, saving 24 tonnes of Co2 a year

Harrogate Borough Council has submitted plans to install more than 1,000 solar panels on the roof of the town's Convention Centre.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 11:19 am
Harrogate Convention Centre.

The council wants to put the solar panels on top of several buildings which make up the centre after it was awarded £2.4m of government cash to cut carbon emissions at its buildings, also including the Hydro swimming pool.

According to documents submitted with the plans last week, a total of 1,077 solar panels would be installed at the 40-year-old venue which is the largest consumer of energy of all buildings in the Harrogate district.

The documents also said the solar panels would save 24 tonnes of Co2 each year and cost around £375,000.

The equipment is being funded through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy‘s public sector decarbonisation scheme which awarded the cash in spring.

Speaking at the time, Kathryn Daly, head of place-shaping and economic growth at the council, said: "We have ambitious plans to ensure our own operations and buildings will be clean, efficient and have a net zero carbon economy by 2038.

"This government funding provides a significant step to allow us to achieve this."

More cash will also be spent on more energy efficient lighting, as well as air source heat pumps and pipework insulation to improve the convention centre's green credentials.

At the Hydro swimming pool, there are plans to install 420 solar panels and replace existing gas boilers with heat pumps in a move which the council said could reduce its annual Co2 emissions by 577 tonnes.

Elsewhere, the trust which runs Harrogate District Hospital received £14m from the government fund to reduce its carbon footprint by 25%, while North Yorkshire County Council was also awarded just under £2m to improve carbon efficiency in its buildings.

It comes as Harrogate Borough Council is pushing ahead with plans for a potential £47m redevelopment of the convention centre after warning it might not survive without a major investment.

While a final decision has yet to be made on the project, the council has already spent more than £1m on design and business planning contracts to progress the plans.

The convention centre was struggling financially before the pandemic hit and it was then used as an NHS Nightingale hospital for almost a year.

The 500-bed hospital did not treat a single coronavirus patient and after being dismantled earlier this summer, several events have now made a return.

It was estimated before the pandemic hit that the convention centre attracted more than 150,000 visitors a year with an economic impact of £35m.

However, there have since been questions raised over how the events industry can bounce back to pre-Covid levels and what risks this could mean for the £47m redevelopment.

There is also the question of how the redevelopment would be funded, with the council previously saying it hoped to secure more government cash.

Plans to rebuild the venue could involve three exhibition halls being demolished to make way for a new 5,000 sq m hall and a refurbished auditorium. Around £20m would be needed to complete a first phase of redevelopment, with another phase later.

If this is not done, a report previously estimated the venue's maintenance costs over 20 years could reach £19m.

A final decision on the redevelopment is to be made by councillors at the start of next year.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter