This section contains our current news releases and comment on matters affecting the solar PV, solar heating and small wind turbine industries. We are always happy to hear from journalists with a serious interest in our sector.

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02 October 2017

SunPower for Coventry Uni's Science and Health Building

Photon Energy is delighted that Coventry University's new Science and Health building, featuring our 51 kWp SunPower solar PV array, is now open to students. 

Coventry University’s new £37 million Science and Health Building, built by BAM Construct UK, has consolidated the existing teaching and research facilities into a new five-storey, 12,000 m2 building that houses state-of-the-art healthcare simulation, research and ‘super-lab’ environments. 

The world-class facilities, capable of accommodating up to 240 students, include a mock operating theatre, fully-equipped ambulance and community house to demonstrate the latest developments in assistive living technologies. 

NG Bailey, responsible for the building services for this project, awarded Photon Energy the contract to build the 51 kWp installation in early 2016. Our installation team had to mobilise quickly in order to meet the University’s tight timescale, which required a major part of the roofworks to be completed during the academic summer break of 2016.

High efficiency, SunPower 327W monocrystalline PV modules were selected in order to provide the maximum energy generation from the limited roof space. The K2 D-Dome mounting system was used to fix the 156 modules, which were then connected to Zeversolar inverters. A Zevercom datalogger was installed to allow 24 hour monitoring of the PV system performance and a Solarfox display unit was installed in the reception area of the new building.

Lefteris Giraleas, Senior Engineer at Photon Energy said “we worked in collaboration with NG Bailey and BAM to come up with the ideal design for the PV system within the available roof space. We were pleased to be able to ultimately deliver a solution that worked well for the University.”

The energy generated by the solar PV will help the building to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Steve Butler, Project Manager at NG Bailey said: “Photon Energy made a great effort to be on-site at very short notice and have designed a system using high quality products that will maximise the output from the flat roof space available.”

25 April 2017

Photon install 165.55 kWp PV system for flagship leisure facility in Hampshire

Photon Energy has recently commissioned a 165.55 kWp rooftop solar PV system for Hart District Council’s new flagship Hart Leisure Centre, built by main contractor Willmott Dixon. The £23 million building, now one of the largest leisure facilities in Hampshire, opened its doors to the public, April 2017.

Hart Leisure Centre has been developed on land which borders Fleet Country Park to the west and Calthorpe School along Hitches Lane to the east. The building has been designed with the local physical environment in mind in order to blend with the outdoor spaces and the greenery of the adjacent country park.

The site accommodates a wide range of both indoor and outdoor facilities including three swimming pools, a 130 station gym, climbing wall, coffee shop, sports hall and multitude of outdoor sports pitches.

The state-of-the-art building has an expressive structural design with long span roof structures to provide a column free environment, built from structural steel. The PV system comprises 602 Trina mono-crystalline black 275W PV modules mounted in a single area on a pitched south-facing standing seam roof. The PV panels are on full view to the public ensuring a raised awareness of Hart District Council’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

The PV system has a total installed capacity of 165.55 kWp and is expected to generate around 152,390 kWh of energy per annum.

Abu Luswata, Senior Engineer at Photon Energy said “We’re very proud to have been selected by Willmott Dixon to be involved with this high-profile project that will provide such great benefits to the local community.”

During the construction of Hart Leisure Centre, as with all their projects, Willmott Dixon ensured that the local economy benefitted. Approximately 85% of suppliers were SME businesses and 75% of the labour was sourced from within 40 miles of the site.

Brian Woodfood, Services Manager at Willmott Dixon said: “It was a pleasure to work with Photon Energy, their project managers and site team were very professional throughout the design and installation process. We’re very happy with the quality of the end result and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again in the future”.

12 September 2017

Photon install solar PV for High Speed Rail training college

Photon Energy has commissioned a 76.5 kWp rooftop solar PV system at the £21 million state-of-the-art HS2 training college in Doncaster and is delighted to have the installation shortlisted for 'Commercial Rooftop Solar PV Project' by Solar Power Portal Awards 2017.

The National College for High Speed Rail has its headquarters in Birmingham and an additional site in Doncaster. The college campuses, built by Willmott Dixon, boast cutting edge facilities that will provide specialist vocational training to the next generation of engineers working on the HS2 project.

The Doncaster site comprises 7,600m² of teaching and workshop space and will open its doors this month to the first intake of industry professionals and apprentices. Bond Bryan Architects designed this unique, modern building that features saw-tooth style peaks on the standing seam roof, made from British steel.

Photon Energy were appointed by building services contractor Briggs & Forrester, earlier this year, to install the 76.5 kWp solar PV array. Photon Energy had to meet Briggs & Forrester’s tight timescale for installation, requiring a team to be on-site within a very short space of time.

255 Bisol 300 Wp modules were attached to the south-facing sides of the saw-tooth roof, a total installed area of 490m². The 300 Wp high efficiency modules were specified to meet the energy target from the available roof space. 

Installing the modules on the 35° pitched roof peaks during windy and icy weather conditions created some health and safety challenges for the installation team.

Duncan Brewer, Engineering Manager at Photon Energy said “This project highlighted Photon Energy’s ability to take on projects with significant health and safety challenges and satisfy the strict requirements of our clients and contractors.”

The energy generated by the solar PV and a small CHP system will provide 16% of the building’s energy requirements, which has helped the building to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating from the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

Darren Cousins, Project Manager at Briggs & Forrester said: “Photon Energy were very professional throughout the installation process. They were able to be on-site at very short notice, rose to the challenge of installing the modules on the saw-tooth shaped roof areas and managed the associated health and safety issues very professionally.”

10 January 2017

Photon Energy celebrates 10 years in the business

Last month, we celebrated 10 years of Photon Energy - making us positively ancient in the UK’s solar PV industry.  In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the UK’s solar PV industry develop from a small, niche industry that employed at most, 1,000 people to an industry that, at its height in 2015, employed over 35,000 people – more than the nuclear industry.

When we started, back in 2006, the UK had a total of 14.3 MW of solar PV installed.  After our first year, this had risen to 18.1 MW and by the end of 2009, there was around 30 MW of installed capacity.

Those early days were largely marked by a government that was unconvinced by the potential for solar, and by stop-start grant schemes such as the Major Demonstration Programme which saw the installation of around 200 systems having been billed as the UK’s answer to the German 100,000 roofs programme. 

By 2007, the Low Carbon Buildings Programme had started which was originally intended to ‘establish the UK as a credible player...alongside Germany and Japan’ and was a catalyst for the establishment of Photon Energy.  

In the first year of the scheme, 3.8 MW of solar PV was installed, with a further 4.4 MW added in 2008; in 2010, the final year of the scheme, a total of 40 MW was installed.  This compares to the 7,411 MW installed in Germany and the 991 MW installed in Japan in the same year. 

Does this lack of ambition, stop-start schemes, continual policy changes all sound a little bit familiar?

Another innovation in 2006 was the introduction of the voluntary Code for Sustainable Homes which set progressively tightening environmental criteria for new homes. It was adopted by many housing associations creating a new market for solar PV.  This complemented the increasing popularity of the “Merton rule” where local planning authorities could require new commercial buildings over 1,000 m2 to generate at least 10% of their energy from renewable energy. 

However, it was the unpredictability of the various grant schemes and the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Merton Rule that led us to concentrate our early efforts on the new-build market – both residential and commercial. By keeping this as a major part of our client base, we have been protected from the extreme boom and busts of the feed-in tariff and ROC schemes.

Fast forwarding to 2017, the feed-in tariff has done a great job in helping to kick-start the UK’s solar PV industry: there are now over 870,000 solar powered buildings with some 3.5 GW of rooftop solar installed in the UK.  Photon Energy has installed over 21 MW of roof-mounted PV and boasts an impressive array of clients in both the new build and retro-fit markets.

But what now? The feed-in tariff has been effectively scrapped, the Renewables Obligation scheme has been closed, but they have by and large done their job. 

For the last 5 years, the rationale for installing solar has been to maximize the revenue from a subsidy so the decision to install a rooftop solar system has been a financial one.  This will change.  With the value of “displaced” electricity worth between 5 and 6 times more than the generation tariff, the revenues from the feed-in tariff are increasingly irrelevant.  Rooftop solar systems are now being designed to maximise on-site energy use rather than maximise income from a subsidy. 

Today, a 250kW system installed for £900/kWp, on a building where all of the electricity is used on site, an IRR of 7% can be achieved with no feed-in-tariff; the same calculation for a 50kW system installed for £1000/kWp gives an IRR of 5%. 

The solar industry needs to be planning for a post-subsidy world. Mechanisms such as Enhanced Capital Allowances for solar PV should be introduced, priority grid access maintained with guaranteed export revenues. 

This would allow us to continue our journey towards subsidy free solar…and be free of the meddling and interference by politicians.