Typesetting letters

Somerset has the energy for success in 2011

Posted: 18/2/11

It’s been a difficult few years for businesses across the UK but many experts are predicting that things will pick up over the course of 2011, particularly towards the end of the year. Indeed, some pockets of the country are already showing early signs of recovery and thanks to a number of exciting business opportunities in Somerset, it seems this idyllic yet dynamic county will be one of the first to propel its way out of the worst of the recession. This makes Somerset a very attractive proposition for entrepreneurs, investors and businesses looking to expand or relocate.

Despite the difficult economic climate, Somerset has seen some exciting developments in the renewable and low carbon energy markets, with the potential for growth as the country recovers from the recession offering an exceptional opportunity. The renewable energy industry in particular is still in its infancy in the UK but is set for significant growth over the coming years, as traditional energy sources become less readily available and ever more costly.

Rupert Cox, Chief Executive of inward investment body Somerset 3D, explains, “Somerset is perfectly positioned in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of ideal solar conditions below the M4 corridor, meaning it is a perfect location for harnessing solar energy. Projects such as a recently approved ground mounted PV array, which will be one of the very first of its type in the country, reinforce Somerset’s status as a green industry pioneer.”

Well-known sites such as the Royal Bath & West Showground and iconic attractions like the Glastonbury Festival are planning significant investments in photovoltaic installations too. The planned regeneration of the Royal Bath & West Showground is set to include the UK's first photovoltaic renewable energy centre, where visitors will be able to learn more about renewable energy. This will generate around twice the power consumed by the project when completed, saving 2,360 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury Festival owner Michael Eavis has recently had the UK's largest private solar electricity-generating system installed on the roof of Worthy Farm. The 200kWp system is made up of over 1,100 solar photovoltaic panels and will generate enough power for 80% of the farm's electricity demand, exporting excess to the grid and saving more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

A recent survey commissioned by Regen SW highlighted the fact that green energy jobs are likely to be instrumental in bringing the South West out of the current economic downturn. The survey of over 200 businesses showed that over the last two years, despite the recession, the number of people employed in the renewable energy sector grew to over 5,000 – a 78% increase.

Cox explains, “Somerset has plenty to offer companies working in the green sector, being one of the UK’s leading environmentally-aware, low carbon counties. It was the UK’s first Transition Local Authority, ensuring that measures to save energy and cut global warming are at the forefront of forward planning. Somerset County Council has also been proactive in the development of wind power initiatives and other renewable projects, including landmark schemes to promote the use of bioethanol.

“Sustainable construction companies, renewable energy specialists, nuclear experts, waste disposal companies, water technology firms and biomass plants are all thriving in Somerset. It is a natural home for businesses working with renewable and low carbon energy, which means there is an established network of professional expertise on tap and a robust supply chain in place.”

In the low carbon energy sector, the decision over planning permission for the proposed Hinkley Point C power station should be determined by the end of 2011. In the likely event that planning permission is approved, this will become a catalyst for economic development throughout the county. EDF Energy’s plans to build a third-generation nuclear power station at Hinkley Point on the Somerset coast would see £10billion of investment generated between now and 2024.

Assuming the project does go ahead, the development is expected to provide 20,000 jobs during the construction phase, with 5,000 people working on the site during the peak construction period and many more in the supply chain off site. In its initial stages, this would involve a huge range of industries, from design and construction companies to professional services, catering suppliers and much more, providing numerous opportunities for inward investors of all sizes across a broad range of disciplines.

The proposed Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) between Somerset and Devon would guarantee a focus on exploiting the potential of the region’s low-carbon energy generation sector, with off- and on-shore wind opportunities, solar farm projects and energy-from waste schemes being explored and developed, boosting the LEP zone's green economy potential.

There are, of course, numerous investment opportunities outside energy and environmental technology as well. Aerospace and advanced engineering, food and drink, and the creative sector are just some of the many thriving industries in this surprisingly vibrant part of the country.

Somerset 3D offers a tailored business relocation service, giving advice and information to facilitate the process. To find out more about the many varied opportunities that Somerset can offer, or for advice and guidance on setting up a business in Somerset call on 0845 1222 066 or visit www.somerset3d.co.uk.