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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 12:01 GMT
Ray of light for solar centre
Gaia Centre
The centre is encouraging more educational visits
One of the UK's biggest solar-powered roofs is about to spark into life in Cornwall.

Energy minister Brian Wilson is switching on the panels at the Gaia Energy Centre at Delabole in north Cornwall.

The 400,000 roof measures 520 sq m and was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Union.

Excess energy will be fed back into the national grid.

SOLAR POWER
Energy from the sun can be harnessed in solar cells - also called photo-voltaic cells
For: Rapidly coming down in price, cell technology means even moonlight may be harnessed in the future
Against: Expensive to harness, intermittent source of energy

On a sunny day it could power 30 homes.

The structure is the latest addition to the struggling centre's renewable resources.

The 5.5m project, which employs 21 people, was opened in August 2001, but visitor numbers have prompted speculation about closure.

About 52,000 people have visited the centre - only half the number hoped for - which has given rise to a new business plan.

Operations manager Alastair Sneddon said: "Things are very tight at the moment and we are having to rethink what we do.

"We are ripping apart the original business plan because we cannot rely on visitor numbers for a sustainable future.

"We are working on a new business plan which will establish the centre as more of an educational facility."

The centre, built next to the UK's first commercial wind farm, features an exhibition on environmental issues and renewable energy.

It was set up with the help of money from the European Union and the South West Regional Development Agency, and is run by a charitable trust.


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14 Oct 02 | Working Lunch
23 May 02 | Moneybox
27 Apr 02 | Politics
30 Oct 01 | England
01 Aug 01 | Scotland
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