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Wrexham, Small European Town, Now a Solar Powerhouse

solar panel factory sharp

Wrexham, in the UK (North Wales, to be precise), has apparently had one of Europe’s largest solar panel factories since 2005 (a Sharp solar panel factory), and employs approximately 1,000 people there. Now, the town is stepping up its solar installation game — it’s just installed 30,000 town-produced solar panels on 3,000 of its homes, and it’s installed solar systems on six schools and several public buildings. In total, one out of three properties in Wrexham now have solar panels. (That is now a town on my “places to visit” list!)

“Scaffolding was bought in from all over Cheshire and north Wales to complete Europe’s biggest social housing solar scheme by 4 March, the cut-off date which allowed installations to earn the higher government solar incentive (assuming a government appeal in the courts fails),” the UK’s Guardian reports.

“‘They have been going up like mushrooms. Everyone got them, even my auntie,’ said Jackie Downward, a resident of Hullah Lane, Wrexham who had eight panels installed on the roof of her pebble-dashed 1960s semi.”

Notably, this solar rush isn’t only because people in the town are green-minded. Solar isn’t just about helping the environment any more —  it’s about saving money and creating jobs.

“I’ve never taken an interest in green things before. Some people say they look ugly but most say they wouldn’t mind them. I only heard of one couple who said they wouldn’t have them on their roof. In the end, it’s money off your bills and jobs so it has to be worth it,” Downward said.

More from John Vidal at he Guardian:

In what council chiefs say was a “sensible” investment, Wrexham last year borrowed nearly £28m for the 5MW scheme to equip one in three of its properties with panels made by Japanese company Sharp, which has a solar module factory on the edge of the town. Tenants, who pay on average around £70 a week to rent their homes, can expect £200-300 a year off their bills from the electricity they generate and the council will make over £1m a year profit from feed-in tariffs, the government’s solar incentive scheme. The money will increase Wrexham’s housing budget by nearly 10%, and will be invested back in public housing.

In a riposte to critics who dismissed solar as a technology only for the wealthy, the town – which has some of Britain’s most deprived estates – expects its investment to lift people out of fuel poverty, benefit its schools and old people, and reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tonnes a year. Sharp says it has invested £43m in its Wrexham solar plant and that 132 people worked nearly six months to install the panels on council homes.

The UK now has over 1 GW of solar power installed, 40 times more than just 22 months ago when its solar feed-in tariff scheme started. However, it’s clear that Wrexham has gone above and beyond. By 2020 it expects to have cut its carbon dioxide emissions 70% compared on 2005 figures, much more than UK targets and “possibly the most by any British borough.”

Sharp solar panel factory in Wrexham via Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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