Major Milestone for Solar Energy at National Composites Centre

One of the largest solar energy systems in the West of England has passed a major milestone, beating its target for renewable energy generated in its first year of operation.

The 600 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed on the roof of the National Composites Centre (NCC) at Bristol and Bath Science Park by Solarsense, the region’s leading renewable energy specialist.

When the system was commissioned a year ago, the Backwell-based company was set a contractual target of generating 127,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) – and it has exceeded that target well within the time limit, producing enough free electricity to meet the equivalent needs of 33 typical homes.

The PV array is believed to be the biggest roof-mounted solar energy system in the Bristol and Bath area. It meets a large percentage of the NCC’s annual electricity needs, helping to significantly reduce running costs while saving more than 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

The £25 million NCC was the first building completed at the Science Park at Emerson’s Green, north Bristol. It was jointly developed by the University of Bristol and the South West Regional Development Agency, with additional funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the European Regional Development Fund.

Its solar energy system has helped it achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ environmental rating, one of the first industrial buildings in the UK to achieve this internationally recognised standard.

The world-class facility brings together leading industry experts and academics in the growing field of composites research and manufacture. Composites are lightweight, high performance materials crucial to cutting the environmental impact of industries that have traditionally been heavy carbon emitters.

The NCC provides manufacturing facilities on an industrial scale, capable of building prototypes to validate design concepts and rapid manufacturing processes.

Peter Chivers, Chief Executive of the NCC said: “We have been delighted with the performance of the PV system and look forward to many more years of efficient energy supply.”

He added: “Nearly all high performance composites product applications are undertaken for environmental benefit. Whether to reduce CO2 emissions, by making aircraft, cars or marine vehicles lighter and more efficient, or to enable the production of wind turbine blades for the generation of renewable energy, composites are contributing significantly to the green agenda. For this reason it is fitting that we are developing these cutting edge, high value products in a state of the art factory that is powered by solar energy.”

Richard Harris of Solarsense said: “We are very pleased that the NCC’s solar PV system has exceeded the target we were set. It shows that renewable energy on a large or small scale can help businesses and organisations reduce both their costs and their carbon footprint.

“The solar generator is not only helping the NCC minimise its carbon emissions but is also supplying much of the electricity needed to develop the composite materials that will help British manufacturers reduce their own environmental impacts.”

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