RCV Solar Panels

Local Gov't • Ards and North Down

Ards and North Down Borough Council are reducing the council fleet's carbon footprint though retrofitting.

  • Solar panels retrofitted on bin lorry.
  • One of Ards and North Down Borough Councils' bin lorries with solar panels.

Ards and North Down BC's story

Officers from our Transport Unit attended the annual Commercial Vehicle Show and identified an innovative solution for reducing fuel consumption, financial cost and carbon emissions of our fleet vehicles, through the deployment of renewable energy.

Officers reviewed the potential for this technology to be utilised in our Council fleet and concluded that it was likely to yield maximum benefit if used on our Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCVs). Operation of RCVs is particularly fuel intensive, typically giving around just 2 miles per gallon, meaning that the bin collection service is responsible for a significant proportion of our carbon emissions as well as a very significant cost. Furthermore, RCVs have a significant amount of onboard ancillary equipment that must be powered from the vehicle battery throughout the entire working day – most particularly the bin lifts and the 360-degree CCTV cameras.

The goal of the Transport Unit is to move as soon as is practicable towards a fleet powered entirely by renewable energy. This outcome is likely to take more time for heavy goods vehicles, where renewable technology is not yet as well advanced as it is for lighter vehicles. In the meantime, whilst the only viable option for the likes of RCVs remains the procurement of conventional derv powered vehicles, this innovation presents a significant opportunity to at least reduce the level of our consumption of hydrocarbon fuel - and with this comes a reduction in carbon emissions and fuel costs. The annual carbon saving per RCV is estimated at 3.75 tonnes and the return on investment in monetary terms is estimated at 1.9 years.

Useful learnings from Ards and North Down BC

We researched solar technology on vehicles, which seemed to be led largely by American companies. We met with TRAILAR at the Commercial Vehicle show and established a partnership.

The advantage of this system is that it can be retrofitted onto existing vehicles without the need for high capital investment on new vehicles.

The system utilises an ultra-thin, flexible solar film matting system fitted to the roof of a rigid truck and directly connected to its battery. The harvested natural energy is used to power all on-board ancillary equipment including tail lifts and on-board cameras, reducing maintenance costs, extending battery life and lowering emissions due to less engine idling.

Initial figures showed immediate savings in fuel, and therefore both cost and carbon savings.

Ards and North Down BC's metrics

Solar yield – fuel savings and carbon reduction.

Feeling inspired? Discover more about this story...

Positive Impacts

Clean Air

Response to climate crisis





Local Gov't, 250 to 10,000 people

Shared by

Northern Ireland Local Government Association

Updated Feb, 2024

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