Wokingham Solar Farm at Barkham, Contractor Appointed

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A new solar farm on land between Barkham and Finchampstead has taken a big step forward after Wokingham Borough Council appointed Bouygues Energies and Services, a global leader for designing and constructing solar farms, as the contractor for the scheme.

Planning permission for the 29 mega watts (MWp) capacity solar farm was granted in September 2021. This means that on a good day, the solar farm could generate 29 mega watts of energy – equivalent to the power needed for 8,500 homes.  

Alongside the solar panels the site will also see the planting of thousands of new trees as part of the council’s tree project, and a new greenway route aimed at better connecting Arborfield, Barkham and Finchampstead to the existing network of rights of way to the north.

The solar farm is just one of the many ways that the borough council is helping the environment by generating sustainable power within the borough. It also has financial benefits for the public purse.

Bouygues Energies and Services has designed and built three solar farms in the past three years, with one still under construction, which are larger than 20 MWp.  Its portfolio also includes solar farms in Wales and Cambridgeshire.

The borough council undertook a competitive tender process to appoint a contractor for this scheme using a nationally approved framework.

When considering the tender returns, the council placed greater emphasis on the quality and social value inclusions of the responses. This was to ensure the best contractor was appointed for such an important council project. But also that concerns with industry issues around forced labour and slavery in supply chains were addressed. The council wanted to ensure that any company it worked with, as far as reasonable, would ensure that all construction material and equipment would be ethically sourced and not rely on forced labour.

Cllr Sarah Kerr, executive member for climate emergency and resident services, said:  “It is really important for us that this project upholds our social values and responsibilities. 

“ As it’s a huge investment for the council and the first solar farm we’re installing, we wanted to be extra diligent that we work with a contractor that will improve the borough’s social, economic and environment wellbeing. We also wanted reassurance that any construction would impact positively on the borough and benefit the local area.    We need to shift our energy as a planet to renewables and this financial investment will help us do that.

“I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Bouygues Energies and Services and am also reassured it takes its obligations in relation to identifying, preventing and reporting modern slavery and human trafficking very seriously and has a zero-tolerance to human rights abuse.”

Gregory Allouis, energy solutions director for Bouygues Energies and Services, said: “We are very pleased to be working in partnership with Wokingham Borough Council to deliver this important solar farm project. With a proven track record in the renewable energy market, we remain committed to placing sustainability, quality, social value and ethical practices at the fore of what we do and look forward to helping Wokingham Borough Council in its mission to support local communities and preserve the environment through the generation and use of greener and cleaner energy.”

Work will now start on designing the solar farm, with initial survey work starting in the coming weeks meaning residents will start to see more activity in and around the site.  It is intended that construction work to install the solar panels will start towards the end of this year.