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Ecotricity gets planning permission for first Sun Park solar project

Company plans to begin work in Lincolnshire in the next few weeks

Ecotricity, a green electricity company, has secured planning permission from the East Lindsey Council, to develop the first of the Sun Park projects, fields of PV panels producing electricity from sunlight and connecting directly into the UK grid.

Ecotricity's first Sun Park will consist of 1MW array of panels located adjacent to one of its Wind Parks in Lincolnshire and will combine the energy of both the wind and the sun into one to generate enough electricity for around 280 average homes each year for the next 25 years.

The project, which will have 2m high PV panels standing in 59 rows on a 4.7 acre site, will be funded by EcoBonds - fixed rate bonds from Ecotricity, subject to a minimum GBP500 investment, with an initial 4-year term, paying an annual rate of interest of 7%, or 7.5% for Ecotricity customers.

Ecotricity plans to begin work within a few weeks at the site that is claimed to deliver an 'energy payback' of two years to get the project ready for full operation by March next year.

Ecotricity founder Dale Obe said that this is a new initiative for Ecotricity and for the UK as it's not just new green power source that can be harnessed on a large scale through our Sun Parks, but also the chance to combine that with wind energy.


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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.