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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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”.

20 December 2016

Photon handover 114.5 kWp PV installation to University of Birmingham

Photon Energy has installed a 114.5 kWp rooftop solar PV system on University of Birmingham's new state-of-the-art-library, built by main contractor Carillion.

The library’s four different roof areas host a total of 350 Sunpower high efficiency PV modules mounted on Sunfixings frames, with Zeversolar inverters positioned at a single location. In order to provide the highest level of health and safety protection, fireman’s switches were installed to isolate the DC cables in case of fire or other emergencies. The system is expected to generate around 92,000 kWh of energy per annum and save 47,748 Kg CO2 per year.

Lefteris Giraleas, Project Engineer at Photon Energy said “Coordinating our design and scheduling our works around other trades was a big challenge for a project spanning almost a year. Having a close working relationship with Carillion’s engineering team helped us to complete this project with minimal lost time onsite and to also meet the high standards set by the client.”

The new library, designed by Associated Architects, sits at the heart of the university’s campus and provides a more energy efficient facility that aims to be an inspirational place of learning. The building contains 400,000 books and publications on 12km of open access shelving. The new library will use 50% less energy than the old building.

With the new library in place, the university can reduce its CO₂ output by 20% by 2020. The PV installation provided by Photon Energy helped Carillion to achieve an ‘excellent’ rating from the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

Lee Owen, Principal Building Services Manager at Carillion Plc said: “Working with Photon Energy on University of Birmingham’s new library was a very positive experience and we are happy with the quality of the finished product”.

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. 

 

 

25 October 2016

More solar helps Bournemouth University go green

This is the second installation at Bournemouth University by Photon Energy who also designed the PV system at the University’s Student Centre which opened in 2015. Willmott Dixon, a major client of Photon Energy, was the main contractor for both projects. Photon Energy had an interesting engineering challenge to integrate the solar panels into the innovative architectural design of the building.

The PV system consists of 276 SunPower 345 Wp high efficiency modules and SMA 3 phase inverters. 206 modules were mounted on a K2 aluminium frame on the octagon shaped standing seam roof.

The arrays of PV were carefully installed in order to provide a magnificent aerial view of the roof. Additionally, on the top level flat roof of the building, 70 modules were mounted to a bespoke frame system allowing for integration with a plant room screen. The bespoke screen was designed by Willmott Dixon in collaboration with Photon Energy. This innovative design enabled the black Sunpower modules to blend seamlessly with the plant screen, which enhanced the aesthetic finish of the building.

Photon Energy’s project engineer Abu Luswata said: “In addition to the design challenges, we had to ensure the health and safety of our operatives who were coping with some particularly windy weather running up to completion in December 2015. We were pleased to complete the project on time and ultimately the client was very satisfied with the result.”

The system is expected to generate 102,060 kWh per year and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 53 tonnes.  Performance is monitored online by the University via SMA’s ‘Sunny Portal’. The Sunny Portal is also accessible via the University’s intranet allowing remote access 24 hours a day.

The Fusion Building at Bournemouth University (BU) is a state-of-the-art glass-fronted, zinc-clad building that provides the new centre-piece for the BU campus. The building has a striking glass dome roof-top and contains 27 seminar rooms, three lecture theatres, research space and a 24 station PC laboratory.