By Marcus Leach

Toyota's Derbyshire plant has announced the completion of work on 17,000 solar panels aimed at reducing energy costs and consumption.

The solar panels cover space equivalent to four and a half football pitches, and were started for the first time on Thursday.

It is hoped that the scheme, funded in part to the tune of £10 million by British Gas, will provide enough electricity to produce 7,000 cars.

"This lease for the land and British Gas solar panels is for 25 years, so it is a long-term investment," Tony Walker, deputy managing director of Toyota Manufacturing UK, said.

"We wanted to improve our use of renewable sources of energy - wind power, solar power and biomass. Solar power was the most practical solution for us and it minimises disturbance for our neighbours.

"We hope to generate 4,600,000 kWh of electricity which is about 5% of our total electrical energy usage."

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