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Glastonbury founder Eavis launches solar power system

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis hopes to turn energy production "on its head" as he launched his own solar power generating system at the home of the famous festival.

The farmer has installed 1,100 solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of his farm's barns in Somerset - the largest private solar system in the UK. The sheds at Worthy Farm are home to his herd of cows while thousands of revelers attend the world famous summer music festival.

On a clear, sunny day, the panels are expected to generate 200kW of power - enough to meet the annual demand of 40 households. Using the clean electricity, the Worthy Farm system will save around 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year - equivalent to the total annual carbon footprint of 10 people in the UK.

Mr Eavis, 75, said any power that was not used on the farm would be sold to the National Grid. "We've been planning this for a few years now, probably six or seven when we had the new sheds put in," he said.

"It's a very exciting project for us. We had the first renewable energy at the festival in 1979 when we discovered putting polyethylene sheets down on the fields would heat the polyethylene with water in and that gave us hot water and that gave us our hot showers.

"So that was our first example here of how the sun can save us money. Using renewable energy is important to us. We're doing all kinds of things here, from storing the sewage which saves on haulage costs and fuel to looking at getting electricity from the methane created by our cows. It's surprising what you can do - saving our carbon footprint is the message and also saving money."

Eavis said that although he had been planning the project for some time, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill had brought home the need for renewable energy. “It's alarming when you see that scale of disaster; there was a sense of urgency about that," he said.

"We're here with our farm and the cows and needed to do something ourselves: you can't rely on someone else to provide energy forever and ever. This is just the start of something that will turn our energy production on its head. It's the beginning of something new and we're learning every day."

The project has been supported by Triodos Bank, who loaned Eavis £500,000, with the festival organiser stumping up £60,000 of his own money. With the benefit of the Government's new feed-in tariff for renewable energy - which entitles people who install technology such as solar panels to be paid for the electricity they generate, even if they use it themselves - the payback time for the system is expected to be about nine years. The system, designed by Solarsense in Bristol and manufactured by Romag in County Durham, is expected to keep operating for at least 20 years.

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