A project that will transform the park and ride site in St Ives into a renewable energy generator has hit a major milestone.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been granted planning permission to build a smart energy grid at the site, which will see a solar car port system generate electricity.

Solar panels will be installed on canopies above the cars to generate electricity and used to power LED lighting and support electric vehicle charging, while additional energy will be stored and sold to local customers.

According to the council, the pilot project will be three times larger than the largest solar car port in the country if built, and, if successful, will be rolled out to sites around the county.

Councillor Josh Schumann, the county council's commercial and investment committee chairman, said: "This is a significant milestone. St Ives park and ride is a great asset, next to the guided bus and the town centre, to pilot a smart energy grid, the first of this scale in the country.

"This innovative type of technology is part of many projects the council is looking at to develop its assets to reduce costs and generate income to support our services.

"We expect this project and its concept of generating, storing and selling energy locally to be widely replicated and become business as usual in the future."

The council has partnered with Bouygues Energies and Services to design, develop and deliver the project.

Miles Messenger, energy engineering manager for Bouygues, said: "The success of this project is achieved through the integration of renewable energy technology with smart energy distribution.

"The project demonstrates how smart micro-grid solutions can be used to help address current and future energy challenges. Renewable energy will charge electric vehicles and serve local energy consumers."

The county council says securing European Regional Development funds for 50 per

cent of the estimated £3million project cost is essential to it going ahead. If the bid is successful, the county council will invest the other half. Over time, the council says the aim is to recoup the investment through sale of electricity.