Embracing the value of solar technology, UK wire products manufacturer William Hughes is forecast to save approximately £35,000 in energy costs and reduce carbon emissions by 100 tonnes per year following the installation of a optimised SolarEdge PV system at its headquarters in Stalbridge, Dorset. Part-funded by a £100,000 grant from Low Dorset Carbon, the 400kW installation is expected to deliver electricity at a levelised cost of only 3.2p/kWh compared to the 9p/kWh paid on average by UK manufacturers, achieving payback in just 3.8 years and saving £1.4 million over the system’s lifetime (factoring in inflation).
William Hughes specialises in the design and manufacture of custom-made springs, wire forms and assemblies for global customers across a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace and medical. The company has three manufacturing sites across Europe – in Bulgaria, Poland, and the 87,000 sq. ft. facility in Stalbridge. The Dorset site’s contract with its energy supplier was coming to an end and the company faced the prospect of a huge hike in energy costs on its next renewal. It turned to green energy specialist, CleanEarth, which has successfully managed 500 renewable energy installations throughout the UK, to provide a solution.
CleanEarth helped William Hughes to secure £100,000 in grant funding towards the cost of the project from Low Dorset Carbon, a program run by Dorset Council to help local businesses improve their energy efficiency and reduce the county’s carbon footprint. The scope of the install includes 1,000 solar modules using SolarEdge inverters with panel-level monitoring – making it the largest single-site solar array that Low Carbon Dorset has supported.
Ed Lennon, Commercial Manager at CleanEarth, comments: “The large roof at the William Hughes’ site meant it was an ideal candidate for solar, but there were many challenging aspects of the installation. In particular, the roof has multiple aspects and hundreds of skylights, as well as occasional inter-row shading from roof pitches which would cause significant power loss in a traditional PV system. We chose a SolarEdge inverter solution as the technology offers much greater design flexibility than traditional string inverter systems, enabling us to overcome these challenges while also delivering the maximum possible energy yield over the lifetime of the system.”
In traditional string inverter systems, solar modules must all be installed at the same pitch and orientation in identical string lengths, which restricts placement of modules to areas where there is uninterrupted roof space. In addition, as multiple modules are linked together in a string, the underperformance of a single module, for example due to shading or soiling, will reduce the efficiency of the entire string, which can result in significant energy losses.
SolarEdge’s solution overcomes these challenges by using Power Optimisers which are placed on a single or pair of modules. This enables much greater space utilisation by allowing modules to be installed almost anywhere on the roof – including around obstructions such as skylights – significantly increasing energy yield. Added to this, as each module, or pair of modules, operate independently, the underperformance of a single unit will not impact the efficiency of other modules, further ensuring the system continues to generate maximum energy throughout its lifetime.
Lennon adds: “Another significant end-user advantage of the SolarEdge solution is the ability to monitor the performance of system modules in real time. Should a module start to underperform, it will enable us to identify the location of the exact module at fault. It also allows us to set up automatic alerts and carry out remote troubleshooting. This will enable maintenance personnel to fix any performance issues quickly and efficiently, reducing the cost of maintenance call-outs while also helping to keep energy losses to a minimum.”
In line with the terms of Low Carbon Dorset’s funding guidelines, CleanEarth had just four weeks to complete the project at the William Hughes site. To expedite the process, it installed four high-power SolarEdge 82.8kW Three Phase Inverters with Synergy Technology. This not only reduced the number of inverters required for the project, but also significantly cut installation time. Unlike alternative large-capacity inverters on the market which require large teams and often specialist equipment to transport and install, these inverters employ small, lightweight primary and secondary units that can be quickly and easily fitted into place by a one- or two-person crew.
The long warranties offered on the inverters was another important factor in CleanEarth’s decision. Lennon concludes: “SolarEdge offers some of the longest warranties on the market, which fits perfectly with CleanEarth’s own ethos to design a 25-year plus lifespan into every system we install. This approach ensures our customers continue to benefit from maximum energy yield, lower maintenance costs and reduced carbon emissions throughout the system’s long lifespan. This benefits everyone – the customer, the local population, and the environment.”