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Making hay while the sun shines

Over the last few years, the feed in tariff associated with solar photovoltaic (PV) generation has dropped considerably. However, over the same period the ‘hardware’ and install costs have decreased dramatically too. This has led to the initial expenditure for a solar PV project reducing substantially and has meant the payback is still relatively appealing.

With this in mind, in early 2014 quotes were sought for a solar PV install on the roof of the office block in Bridlington. We established that there was room for approximately 30KW of generation (a reasonable size compared to most domestic installations) with a rough cost of around £1000 per KW. The feed in tariff (FIT) for a project of this size was 12.57p per kWh. However, we had to move quickly as the tariff was set to fall in the new financial year, in order to secure the higher tariff rate we had to be up, running and signed off by the 1st April 2014. Furthermore, we needed an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the office building with a ‘D’ rating or above to qualify for the full feed in tariff rate.

We knew that even though it is not the most modern building, the office block would fulfil most of the criteria for the EPC ‘D’ rating. We have double glazed windows, energy efficient lighting, etc. An extra layer of fibreglass loft insulation was the only additional hurdle to jump over before the certificate was awarded. Then, once we had capital approval and the risk assessments/method statements were completed, we were ‘good to go’.

Brid office scaffold

The scaffolding company arrived on the 7th of March and covered virtually the entire frontage of the office block. Unfortunately, the scaffold partially blocked the roadway which forms a lorry route between our malt dispatch bins and the weighbridges. Although the scaffold would only be in place for a short period, the west entrance onto site (usually locked) was opened to allow access and egress for cars, easing the traffic on the roadway in front of the offices. Barriers and temporary lighting were also assembled to protect the scaffold and keep everyone safe.

Our installer, Peak Power Systems, arrived on site on the 10th of March and started to mount the rail brackets underneath the roof tiles to hold the solar panels in place.

On day two and three the installers started to lift the remaining panels onto the scaffold and began to bolt them in place. It was amazing how quick and simple the process was, within a few days the whole roof was covered and the inverter, meter and cabling were connected too!

The installation was commissioned on Friday 14th March. The installation has a net declared capacity of 27 KW (this is the size of the inverter) but allegedly we have already seen an output of 30.2KW very briefly on a sunny day. In fact, we were blessed with a beautiful weekend after commissioning and managed to generate over 250 KW in the first couple of days! So far we have generated over 3 MWh of electricity. This has avoided in excess of 4.7 TCO2 emissions from traditional coal fired electricity generation.

Brid PV installation

The monitoring system we have installed will hopefully relay information to the television screen in the Bridlington reception to show visitors ‘in real time’ how much electricity we are generating.

The payback on this project was anticipated to be 4 years. We suspect that we will exceed this target if the system carries on performing so well. The panels have a 20 year lifespan so the project will provide a very small percentage of our daily site electricity requirement until 2034. The office roof is immediately visible as you drive onto site and Solar PV displays our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint while tangibly demonstrating our green values to visitors and customers as they enter the grounds.