During the acquisition process, and throughout an asset’s lifecycle, the Company engages with contractors, local residents, community organisations, landowners and local authorities to promote public support for the project, maximise the local benefit and minimise any actual or perceived negative effects. This has been achieved through a number of initiatives:
The Asset Manager regularly attends parish council and local community meetings, conducts visits with O&M providers, landowners and construction companies to encourage community engagement and ensure that local stakeholders are engaged. During 2018, the Environment and Sustainability Manager conducted over 50 site visits.
The Company supports community benefit schemes that assist local authorities in developing and maintaining community assets and organisations. In 2018, over £100k worth of grants were provided to local communities throughout the UK. At Sandridge solar farm the Parish Council used the funds to install emergency defibrillators around the Parish. Copley solar farm used the grants to repair and refurbish the local village hall and at Upper Huntingford the grants were used to fund refurbishments to the village hall, local cricket club and educational activities at the local library. In March 2018, the Company also launched the Bannerton solar park grant scheme, providing grants of up to AUS$5,000 to local community groups. The groups which were awarded grants were: Rotary Club of Robinvale – Euston; St Vincent de Paul Society – Robinvale; Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative – Robinvale College; Mallee Almond Blossom Festival – Englefield; V8 Car Trek team – Robinvale; Storm Rugby Club – Robinvale; Euston Netball Club and Robinvale Rowing Club and Youth Association.
A large part of generating public support comes as a result of educational initiatives, generating interest in and understanding of solar power’s benefits. At one of the Company’s Australian sites, Bannerton, located in Victoria, students from Robinvale College visited the site and learnt about solar power. in the UK, for the second year running, the Company invited the Institution of Engineering and Technology to visit Wymeswold solar power plant in Leicestershire. The group toured the 78-hectare site to witness first-hand the operational aspects of a solar farm. Meanwhile, the site’s O&M contractor, Brighter Green Engineering, explained details of the plant’s day-to-day management and the steps taken to maximise operational efficiency and environmental stewardship.
Students from Robinvale College visiting Bannerton Solar plant
Health and well-being
The Health and Safety (H&S) of everyone working on or visiting the site and of local residents is of paramount importance. The management and monitoring of H&S onsite is a top priority for the O&M contractor, who is responsible for recording and reporting all H&S related incidents to the Asset Manager on an ongoing basis. In addition to this, to improve the management of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality), reinforce best practice and ensure regulatory compliance, the Asset Manager appoints an independent professionally accredited H&S consultant who ensures that contractors are appointed on the basis of their health and safety competence and regularly visits the sites to ensure they are meeting industry and legal standards.
The Company’s first Australian solar project, Bannerton, will provide clean power to Melbourne’s tram network. Not only will this contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of the public transport network in Melbourne, it will also reduce noise and air pollution at the point of use, increasing both the health and the well-being of the local population.