United Utilities is installing over 3,500 floating solar panels on Lancaster Reservoir, saying it will help to reduce water bills for customers by stabilising its energy costs.
The huge solar farm - which will cover an area the size of a football pitch and generate 1MW of power - will be used to run the company’s Lancaster water treatment works.
As well as generating clean energy, the solar panels will also reduce the growth of algae in the water by blocking out the light, meaning the treatment process will be less energy-intensive and require fewer chemicals.
The project is the second of its kind, following the installation of a much larger 12,000-panel solar farm on Tameside’s Godley Reservoir in 2015. Construction firm Forrest was the lead contractor for both installations.
Richard Waggitt, head of renewable energy at United Utilities, said: “Solar panels are more efficient than they used to be - there is a misconception that you need high levels of sunlight, when in fact daylight is sufficient. What you do need is unshaded space for the arrays, and that’s where the surface of our reservoirs is a real advantage.”
Clean energy strategy
Floating solar is just one part of United Utilities’ strategy to embrace renewable energy. The company already has over 40 land-based renewable systems across the North West and plans to install another 22 solar arrays over the next two years.
Solar is not the only green technology being used - United Utilities has also made use of wind turbines and biogas from wastewater sewage, and more recently has employed artificial intelligence (AI) software to improve energy management.
“Increasing our generation of renewable energy is not only good for the environment, it’s good for our business too. By generating our own power, we can protect United Utilities from a volatile energy market, which will allow us to predict our cost of treatment and stabilise bills for our customers”, Richard Waggitt added.