We first identified this project during an assessment that we had completed under Phase 2 of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme in June 2018. The assessment was completed on our new head office that we had recently moved into. The building boasts a large roof space and therefore we were presented with an opportunity to produce a significant amount of renewable energy and reduce our dependence on electricity imported from the grid.
Initiating an internal project in March 2019, we completed research and met with specialist suppliers to make sure that the figures added up right for us. We were pleasantly surprised by the electricity production figures and the financial savings that this could offer to us.
As we are an organisation that is proud of its culture, we selected Geo Green Power as our supplier as we felt that they had similar core values to us. Working with Geo Green Power, we felt that the success of our project was as important to them as it was for us. We worked with them to maximise the efficiency of the installation, taking into consideration the orientation and pitch of the roof, filling as much of this space as possible.
The installation caused little disruption to our normal business operations, with only a single power outage which was completed outside of core hours as this was required to make the final connection. From start to finish the installation took just over two weeks to complete and commission.
The 229 kW array consisted of 764 solar panels, which was set to produce 194,650 kWh per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 88 tonnes per year. The installation also offered a financial return, including a seven-year return on investment, followed by large savings for the remaining lifespan of the array, which is expected to be beyond 20 years.
So far, we have found that the energy produced matches the calculations and so do the financial savings. This project has allowed us as an organisation to feel like we are making a positive contribution to the environment by reducing our carbon footprint.
With no prior experience in renewable energy, we completed some initial research. We found that through engaging several specialist suppliers, we were able to identify common themes with solar panel installations and make sure that the suggested figures were seen as realistic.
Our supplier also helped us to complete and submit all of the relevant planning applications, making the process as simple as possible from start to finish with our limited experience in this area.
We encountered a stumbling block when our application was rejected by the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) due to instability on the local power distribution network. The initial response that we received indicated that the local infrastructure would be unable to support the exported power without a significant upgrade. This delayed the project for several months as we looked at options to overcome this challenge. Fortunately, we were able to overcome this issue with help from the Midlands Energy Officer and the DNO and we received confirmation that we were able to proceed.
We were able to personalise the experience through the use of drone footage to capture the installation in progress and share the success of our story with our staff. Our supplier was also able to produce a short video and case study about the installation.
On reflection, a project of this size had more steps than we had at first anticipated, causing the project to take longer than we had initially planned. This has been a worthwhile experience for us and we have seen clear evidence of the benefits of renewable energy.
Advice for a similar project would be to implement a means of easily monitoring the benefits of the project from the offset. This would include having a simple and centralised means of viewing the energy that has been produced, the savings that have been made from not having to purchase electricity and the money that has been gained from selling electricity. This helps to identify the benefits of the project and quantify the return on investment and long-term financial gain.
Long-term data collection that evidences the reduction in kilowatt-hours (kWh) imported to the site when compared to previous years.
Export meters that measure the amount of renewable energy that we sell back to the grid.