Nottinghamshire business park nears self-sufficiency with solar farm

A business park in Nottinghamshire has installed a  540kW solar farm which can provide enough electricity to power 70% of the park’s energy demand.

Ransom Wood Business Park, located in Mansfield on a 28-hectare former TB hospital site, officially launched the solar farm on 22 April.

Park owners Ransom Wood Estates has invested £660,000 in the project, which has 2,088 panels over 1.4 hectares, with the aim to eventually make the park 100% self-sustainable in energy use.

Solar, biomass and anaerobic digestion developer T H White built the solar farm. Alex Lockton, energy division general manager at T H White told Solar Power Portal that the business park is using as much of the power from the solar farm as possible before exporting excess energy.

He added: “That’s what makes it special. There are very few like it in the UK. It’s very rarely that a business park or any kind of commercial business of similar size will invest not an inconsiderable sum of money on solar for their own use and their clients.

“It’s not just one business becoming green but all these businesses becoming greener.”

Charles Cannon, Ransom Wood Estates director told Solar Power Portal: “I’m a strong supporter of off-grid electricity. By exporting electricity it almost gets lost in the ether, while using your own energy is the most efficient use of energy you can have. The grid should be used purely as backup.”

The farm, which has access to government subsidies under the feed-in tariff, uses Q Cells polycrystalline solar modules and is expected to offset 188 tonnes of CO2 annually, which is 3,772 tonnes over 20 years.

Cannon said the European made Q Cells had a “lower carbon footprint and less risk with European warrantees than buying Chinese. We have much greater trust in German and European manufacturing.

“The Q Cell technology is also proven and tested to be the most efficient with a good shelf life. In terms of carbon footprint, it seems obscene to import renewable energy technology all the way from China if you can get it from neighbours in Europe.”

Ransom Wood is also working with T H White to look at ways of using DC technologies such as heating and cooling to use the energy more efficiently than converting from AC to DC.

The new solar plant is does not replace any arable farmland.

T H White also helped Ransom Wood provide sapling to the Sherwood Forest area to offset 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The park is in the process of being landscaped with seeding and other biodiversity projects.

Lockton said installing the plant over winter was challenging, while shadows from trees and overhead lines had to be taken into account during the build.

James Cannon, managing director at Ransom Wood Estates told Solar Power Portal that the site would see a return on investment within 10 years.

He said: “When you’ve got your own customers to sell the energy to, you have a guaranteed retail income source.

“Selling to customers in the business park, you can also protect your tenants against energy price rises. We can give discount on high market rates.”

He added that being an energy retailer is a far more commercially viable option than purely exporting energy to the grid as a wholesaler.

On site, 75,000 square foot is fed by the solar farm leaving another 35,000 square feet that could be fed in future projects.

The solar farm’s official switch-on was timed to coincide with Earth Day 2015.