Off-Grid Power Solution helps Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council prepare for severe weather

During a session at Strictly Highways in 2019, Head of Highways at Blackburn with Darwen, Dwayne Lowe, was introduced to Rennicks Off-Grid Power Solution (OGPS) – an innovative solution to providing power to the required weather stations needed in Blackburn and Darwen.

Highway Authorities in the UK have legal obligations under the Highways Act 1980 and Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, to firstly maintain the public highways in a safe condition but with an additional specific duty to remove snow and ice from the carriageway.

When road surface temperatures are forecast to drop to between 0°C to +1°C (marginal temperatures), decision makers face the difficult task of balancing road safety and operational efficiency of the network. If there is any doubt as to whether ice will form, the gritting machines inevitably go out, often several times a day, depositing varying amounts of de-icing agents on the roads.

Treating roads too late can lead to accidents and congestion, but unnecessary treatment of roads can result in high additional costs due to wasted de-icing agents and labour costs. In addition to cost, unnecessary treatment of roads leads to additional environmental damage to our ecosystems and road infrastructure. Weather stations detect the actual weather and road conditions in real time, returning the data to the forecasters and decision makers accordingly. A reliable power source is required to ensure the efficient operation of this technology. Whilst electrical power is normally available in built up conurbations, it often isn’t readily available in more rural areas. This was an issue faced by Blackburn with Darwen and their weather station location requirements. To install a dedicated conventional power supply to a remote location is often impractical and cost prohibitive. Whilst there was an existing weather station in place in the borough, it was poorly located and needed significant investment to maintain. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council required a cost neutral, environmentally sustainable solution that would allow them to make an informed decision around the treatment of the roads when marginal temperatures were forecast.

During a session at Strictly Highways in 2019, Head of Highways at Blackburn with Darwen, Dwayne Lowe, was introduced to Rennicks Off-Grid Power Solution (OGPS) – an innovative solution to providing power to the required weather stations needed in Blackburn and Darwen.

The Rennicks OGPS is a hybrid wind and solar powered unit with a built-in rechargeable energy source. The independent power platform can be used to power multiple critical infrastructure items such as CCTV cameras, ANPR systems, air quality monitors and weather stations. Rennicks worked with Dwayne’s team and the weather data providers Vaisala Ltd, to install two brand new weather stations within the borough. The weather stations will improve the forecasting model thanks to the increased data provided. Also powered by, and installed onto the OGPS units as the weather stations, are two CCTV cameras. The cameras provide still images every 10 minutes, giving the council a view of the Blackburn with Darwen network, to assist with decision making at the time of severe weather. One station was installed on the A6119 at Yew Tree Drive in Blackburn, and one at the A666 at Bull Hill in Darwen. Rennicks completed pre-assembly of the OGPS at our distribution facility in Cheshire, with the Vaisala equipment installed at the same time. This minimised disruption to road users during the final installation on site. Each installation took 5 hours to complete at site and accurate, real-time data was soon being fed back to the forecasters and decision makers at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

If there is any doubt about whether ice is likely to form on our roads, decision makers will usually elect to deice at quite a high cost.

By receiving accurate, realtime information about the road conditions in the borough, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council will make significant savings in unnecessary deicing treatments in years to come – with savings being ploughed back into other road improvement schemes.

  • On average, it costs around £400 per night for the
    deployment of just one gritter, including materials.
  • The new weather stations will reduce the number of
    unnecessary de-icing treatments, resulting in a
    predicted saving of approximately £100k per year.
  • Wind and solar powered, the renewable energy source
    installations are saving Blackburn and Darwen
    additional energy running costs.


In this case, the predicted annual savings, far outweighed the installation cost of the equiment. OGPS technology enables critical network infrastructure to be installed in areas and locations where in the past, it would have proven extremely difficult and costly to get the required power through to run the equipment.

"Fantastic to see the new weather stations installed at Blackburn with Darwen. These help ensure our road networks are ready when severe weather hits, and because they are solar and wind powered, this helps us tackle the council's climate emergency targets, as well as saving money."

Zainab Rawat
Assistant Executive Member Growth and Development Councillor

“I am immensely proud to have been involved in the successful delivery of this innovative solution. Our old weather station was poorly located and required significant investment to maintain. The provision of these two new weather stations will ensure we receive a robust data led forecast and provide efficient gritting operations.”

Dwayne Lowe
Head of Highways and Network Operations at Blackburn with Darwen Council


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