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Solar ‘still cost viable’ despite subsidy cuts

International building materials company, Kingspan, has said that rooftop solar remains “cost viable” for its manufacturing facilities, despite cuts to the Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT).

International building materials company, Kingspan, has said that rooftop solar remains “cost viable” for its manufacturing facilities, despite cuts to the Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT).

Last month, as reported in Green Intelligence, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) confirmed that FiT rates for commercial solar installations would fall from February 2016, following a public consultation.

However, Tony Ryan, building technology manager at Kingspan Insulated Panels, believes that on-site solar power generation is still “very viable” for large, energy-intensive industrial and commercial facilities, even if the market ultimately moves towards a non-subsidy model.

Speaking to Clean Energy News recently, Ryan said solar was “still seen as a key driving force” behind Kingspan’s drive to achieve ‘net zero energy’ by 2020 across its estate of more than 85 manufacturing facilities worldwide.

“Systems that can be sized and installed in buildings, and for those buildings to actually consume the energy rather than export to the grid, are delivering the best returns and this is the case for us,” he said.

“It's saving us a substantial amount of money, a substantial amount of energy and obviously that - with having zero carbon associated with it - is benefitting our net zero energy drive.”

‘Net zero energy’

Kingspan is close to completing a new five Mega-Watt (MW) solar installation on the roof of its manufacturing facility in Sherburn, North Yorkshire, which will be one of the largest of its kind in the UK. It will allow the site to completely offset all the electricity it consumes on site.

The company hopes to achieve its global ‘net zero energy’ goal through a mixture of on-site renewable generation, improved energy efficiencies and the procurement of renewable energy from off-site.

‘Very attractive’

At one of the company’s newer facilities in Selby, North Yorkshire, the entire roof has been replaced to help improve energy efficiency.

Trapezoidal roof panels were fitted, with integrated polycarbonate roof lights allowing light into the workspaces below to minimise heat wastage. 

Intelligent lighting controls were then fitted, to control illumination levels in the building by optimizing the balance between available natural daylight and energy efficient high-bay LED fittings. 

The project has cut the plant’s lighting costs by 91 per cent, after they had risen to £46,000 per year, and the whole installation paid for itself within just over three years.

Ryan added: “A payback of 3.2 years and an IRR [Internal Rate of Return] of 50 per cent, it’s very attractive to any financial director.”

Free support

In Greater Manchester, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from fully funded support with improving energy efficiency, as well as reducing their use of materials and water in day-to-day operations, through the Business Growth Hub’s Green Growth service.

For any small businesses interested in purchasing solar-plus-storage systems to help reduce energy costs, a new guide has also been published this month by the BRE National Solar Centre

The BRE Solar Storage Guide is available here as a free download. It explains how battery storage systems are becoming a more viable option for small commercial installations and explains how they work and how to choose the right system for the right application to get the best return on investment.