A significant installation of solar power at one of the North East’s largest environmental management sites could pave the way for greater use of renewable energy across the region.
The 943 solar panel array at Northumbrian Water’s Bran Sands waste water treatment plant in Middlesbrough is believed to be one of the biggest commercial rooftop mounted installations in the North East.
It has been installed as part of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Europe’s leading solar energy company Lightsource Renewable Energy.
The system, fully funded, designed, and operated by Lightsource, provides a simple solution for Northumbrian Water’s power needs whilst creating significant energy and carbon savings, equal to taking 24 cars off the road per year. Data from Bran Sands will be used to assess the potential for further installations across Northumbrian Water sites.
Initial data has shown that the scheme is on course to meet the projected savings of £6,353 in the first year of installation, with total cost reductions of more than £386,000 projected over 20 years.
Steve Coverdale, Bran Sands Plant Manager, said: “By installing solar energy at Bran Sands, we can continue to move from being a net importer of energy to parity or even one day a slight exporter. The panels will provide performance data that is specific to our region that will help to evaluate the value of further roll-out across our North East estate.
“At Northumbrian Water, we are constantly looking at ways to make our operations more energy efficient and sustainable, reducing costs at the same time as protecting the environment. The results so far have been positive at Bran Sands and we will continue monitoring what can be achieved to determine the position of solar energy in the company’s ongoing energy mix.”
The installation is the latest phase in Northumbrian Water’s strategy to make Bran Sands, which provides wastewater treatment for approximately 300,000 customers including major multi-national companies on Teesside, self-sufficient in energy.
The availability of roof space big enough to accommodate the 250kWp peak capacity system, capable of significantly reducing CO2 emissions and energy bills, created the opportunity to not only achieve this on-site, but to assess the effective power of solar energy in the North East’s climate.
Installation of the panels was completed and connected inside a fortnight, allowing Northumbrian Water and Lightsource to beat the deadline for the Government’s reduction in Feed-in Tariff (FIT) support. The FIT scheme is designed by UK Government to encourage uptake of a range of renewable and low-carbon electricity generation technologies.
ETS Markets Limited, an expert in carbon and renewable energy markets, acted as advisor on the project.
Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource, said: “The unique quality of solar power is that it is scalable and can be deployed very quickly and efficiently, as demonstrated by this project with Northumbrian Water. Whilst on this occasion we were able to utilise facilities on-site, our private wire PPA solutions do not require businesses to allocate land or roof space to us.
“This is the new world of electricity supply, which we are calling the solar revolution. Energy intensive businesses can now choose to procure solar electricity with no hassle, and Lightsource remains at the forefront of this exciting paradigm shift.
“The Bran Sands scheme is a prime example of the role reliable renewable technologies can play in helping businesses to take control of their energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint, demonstrating that cost-effective and low carbon energy generation is within reach of any organisation. The project will also provide data that will help to inform further projects in the region, allowing them to secure their energy future as well.”
The installation at Bran Sands is part of Northumbrian Water’s ongoing efforts to increase sustainability in its estate, with hydroelectricity having previously been heavily utilised.
Work started last month to install a hydro turbine at Grassholme reservoir, near Mickleton, County Durham, as part of a £3m investment to upgrade the site that will see green renewable energy produced for the site and fed into the national grid.
Hydroelectric stations have been built at Selset Reservoir, near Barnard Castle, Mosswood water treatment works, near Consett, and Kielder Reservoir, in Northumberland.
The hydro power plant at Kielder is the largest of its kind in England, generating some 20,000 megawatt hours of electricity – enough to meet the average annual needs of about 5,000 households.
The installation at Bran Sands follows significant successes in reducing the site’s own carbon footprint, through the use of ‘power from poo’, more formally known as ‘thermal hydrolysis advanced anaerobic digestion’.
Bran Sands converts sludge into green electricity and has seen emissions reduce from 16,000 tonnes a year to five tonnes.