Westcott is a site with a strong history of innovation. The park started life as an RAF airfield over 75 years ago and went on to become the centre of the UK’s Cold War rocket research. Today, it is the home of UK rocket propulsion, the National Space Propulsion Test Facility, and the Westcott Space Cluster.
This innovation doesn’t stop with the incredible organisations that call the park home. We are committed to continually growing our approach to sustainability and Westcott Solar Park is a big part of that story. We started exploring the potential of solar a decade ago – it seemed a natural fit for us as we have a large amount of open runway space – and we worked with a project team to turn on the first phase in June 2011.
We quickly launched two further phases, and we currently have 10 acres of solar panels stretching 900 metres, with a capacity of 1.6MW. At the time it was completed, Westcott Solar Park was the first significant solar array in the country. The energy we generate is purchased by businesses across the park, enabling them to reduce their carbon footprint. Solar energy represents around 30% of our total energy usage and (on average) over 70% of the solar energy we produce is purchased by tenants or the park itself.
Park owners PATRIZIA put sustainability at the centre of everything we do at Westcott. Last year, we switched on a new twin electric vehicle charger, furthering our commitment to environmental issues. We also provide a base for a number of businesses within the sustainability sector.
We’re passionate about safeguarding a diverse ecological habitat and encouraging native species to thrive across our 650 acres. In 2015, we planted 10,000 trees in partnership with the Woodland Trust, and as part of the Pollination for the Nation initiative, we added beehives for 20,000 bees alongside supportive habitats for them to thrive. We produce our own honey and aim to increase our bee population to one million.
We are planning to extend our solar initiative across a further 35 to 40 acres and are currently in the advanced design stages of this project. This expansion will have a capacity of 7.65MW, enabling Westcott Venture Park to become one of the first carbon-neutral business parks in the UK.
Think carefully about space – Space is key when it comes to solar. We are lucky that we have been able to allocate space for our solar park within our 650-acre site. But for sites with less room, it’s important to think creatively. Roof space can be used effectively and the price of panels is much more competitive than in the past.
Consider access to the National Grid – Accessing the National Grid can be complex. We are on the edge of three DNOs (Distribution Network Operators) and planning our grid connection was one of the most challenging things about the project. We believe the National Grid should be taking a stronger lead in facilitating infrastructure for sustainable energy. Start conversations with your local network as early as possible.
Amount of energy used by park tenants and the park itself.
Solar as a percentage of total energy usage.