The Abrahams family have been harnessing the power of the sun for three generations to help them grow grain, rape and bean in the countryside of Saffron Walden. The installation of a new, high-volume grain store provided the family with a great opportunity to further harness the power of the sun, with the installation of a solar PV array. Local renewable company, SolarBarn were approached by the family to help demonstrate the potential power of solar technology.
“Solar power has really become a viable choice for homes and businesses in the past few years and, as the roof on the new grain store is largely south-facing we thought it was an option worth exploring,” explains Alan Abrahams. “The feed-in-tariff was also a key incentive.”
However, the grain store posed a unique challenge for SolarBarn. It is imperative that the grain store roof, made of corrugated fibre cement sheeting, remains completely water-tight – any leakage runs the risk of spoiling the precious harvest stored within. As a result, traditional rubber grommets didn’t provide the necessary level of waterproofing.
“Most installers would use hanger bolts with butyl rubber grommets to protect against rainfall, but the size, scope and height of this particular roof didn’t give us the level of security,” said Robert Flynn, Director of SolarBarn. “Earlier in the year we had met Conergy at the industry trade show Ecobuild and we thought the company might be able to help.”
Working in partnership with Conergy, SolarBarn augmented a traditional mounting system with bespoke culottes – individually crafted pieces of curved aluminium that fit over the mounting holes to make them more impermeable and robust.
“We were delighted to work with Conergy. There was an option to choose a less expensive Chinese supplier but we were reassured by the quality Conergy offered,” continues Abrahams. “It also provides a bullet-proof 25 year performance warranty. These panels will be up there for decades so we wanted a manufacturer that we could trust.”
The 49.68kWp system comprises 216 Conergy PowerPlus 230w poly-crystalline panels partnered with PowerOne inverters.
“The installation process was very smooth and the design Conergy provided ensured it all fitted perfectly,” comments Abrahams. “Now that it is up and running, we are seeing some spectacular returns.”
“On a good day we can generate 250kWh of energy – over £80 worth – which all goes straight back into the distribution network. This time of year, even cloudy days never produce less than 100kWh and on average we reckon the figure is around 200kWh,” says Abrahams. “Across the year that works out at £1,300 per month income. In the summer, post-harvest, we will be using some of the output to power our energy-intensive electrical grain dryer but, at the minute, it is all going back to the grid.”
However, as a family business that makes its living from the land, Thurrock’s Farm is very conscious of the environment. The fact that the annual energy produced is equivalent to around 40 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of taking seven cars off the road, is an added advantage.
“Green energy is here to stay so we are thrilled to be at the forefront of the industry. Now that this installation is complete we’ll certainly be considering further investment in solar technology in the future”, concluded Abrahams.