Anglian Water has received the green light to install a solar farm on operational land at its Grafham Water reservoir in Cambridgeshire.

The company says the installation will generate more than a quarter of the energy used at the site each year and cut carbon emissions by 4,500 tonnes annually.

Grafham Water is the third largest reservoir in England, providing clean water to millions of homes across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. The facility features a water treatment works as well as a public park and nature reserve.

Huntingdonshire District Council has approved Anglian Water’s plans to build a solar array on operational land at the site under its permitted development rights.

The company expects to begin installing solar panels in winter 2018 and have them up and running by spring 2019.

The project is part of Anglian’s bid to become a carbon neutral business by 2050, with a focus on wind, solar and combined heat and power.

David Riley, head of carbon and energy at Anglian Water, said: “We supply over six million customers across the east of England with water and water recycling services and the population continues to grow rapidly.

“In fact, this region is one of the fastest growing in the UK and one that is at risk from climate change. Our challenge is to address this increasing demand for services sustainably, and it’s that challenge which underpins our ambitious renewable energy strategy.

“We’re using operational land we own at Grafham which isn’t open to members of the public, so we aren’t restricting visitor access and there won’t be any impact on recreational activities such as walking, cycling, fishing or sailing.”

Anglian’s broader renewable energy strategy focuses on minimising the “operational” carbon from its everyday operations, and the “capital” carbon used in building assets such as water mains, sewers and pumping stations.

“We’ve been working with our supply chain to reduce the energy and materials needed to construct and maintain our assets like sewers and pumping stations, increasing the efficiency of our equipment, and minimising wastage through driving down leakage,” explained Riley.

“We are reducing our emissions through our fleet by installing electric vehicle charging points and trialling electric vans and making better use of the by-products from water treatment processes and generating renewable energy to power our operations. We’ve already seen a significant reduction in our carbon emissions.”