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Depot reopens as ‘low carbon’ site following £8m refit

A council depot has officially reopened as a ‘low carbon’ site following an £8.3m makeover.

Durham County Council’s Morrison Busty depot at Annfield Plain has reopened following a series of works carried out with the aim of reducing its carbon emissions, including creation of a large scale solar farm and battery storage to meet all its electricity needs.

The various measures, which are in the running for a national award, have been made possible thanks to grants of £5m from the European Regional Development Fund, and £3.3m from the county council.

They have been implemented in support of the pledge in the council’s Climate Emergency Response Plan to reduce its emissions and to make the council net zero by 2030.

The ribbon cutting to reopen the depot following the work was performed by the council’s Chair, Cllr Joan Nicholson.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, the authority’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We’re delighted to have invested alongside the European Regional Development Fund in this project which is key to our efforts to reduce our own emissions, whilst helping to meet our countywide net zero aspirations.

“A lot of work has gone into what we believe to be the first ‘low carbon’ depot nationally, with a significant solar farm that will supply all the site’s electricity as well as the introduction of rapid electric vehicle chargers for our fleet.

“The measures we have rolled out will save more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and reduce the council’s total emissions by up to four per cent, all contributing to our drive to make County Durham carbon neutral by 2045. They will also drastically reduce our energy bills across the site, with the project more than paying for itself with the savings, helping us save money every year into the future.”

The depot, on the site of the former Morrison Busty Colliery, provides equipment storage, a base for the council’s vehicles, a household waste recycling centre, a horticultural nursery and offices.

The work carried out to make Morrison Busty ‘low carbon’ was as follows:

  1. Installation of a three megawatt solar photovoltaic farm and a battery that can store two megawatt hours of energy, meeting the site’s electricity needs.

  2. Installation of rapid electric vehicle charging points for the council’s fleet of vehicles.

  3. Upgrading the thermal properties of two existing buildings via external wall insulation, replacement of glazed components, and upgrading the insulation within roof space.

  4. Replacing the existing natural gas boilers within the two buildings with air source heat pumps.

  5. Upgrading the depot’s street lighting and the lighting within the two existing buildings to LED lighting, to enable dimming and wireless remote control.

  6. Development of a private wire network to transport electricity from the solar farm and battery to the depot buildings and electric vehicle charging points.

The refit project has been named as a finalist in the national Association of Public Service Excellence Awards, in the Best Climate Action and Decarbonisation Initiative category. The council will find out if it has won in September.

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