Eco Innovation

Smart rooftop solar technology provides cost savings

14th December 2022
Beth Floyd

Burnley College in Lancashire is combining its decarbonisation and future-focused educational initiatives with the installation of a 285kWp SolarEdge DC-optimised rooftop solar plant on a new £10 million sports facility and teaching block.

Comprising three separate solar arrays, the combined 750-module system is forecast to reduce the college’s carbon emissions by 61 tonnes per year and cut its annual electricity bill by more than £108,000 based on current energy prices. However, total savings over the next ten years could exceed £1,080,000 when energy price inflation is taken into account, according to the installer.

The impressive sports facility, which includes a spa and cryotherapy chamber to aid recovery from sports injuries, was built as part of Burnley College’s ambition to achieve university status by developing an innovative curriculum. Seeking a renewable energy source to power the site’s energy-intensive facilities but lacking the additional investment this would require, the college approached installer and funded decarbonisation partner, Shawton Energy, to provide a solution.

Shawton Energy recommended this system in order to maximise solar energy generation and provide cost-effective maintenance and operation of the solar arrays. The solution uses SolarEdge Power Optimizers which attach directly to solar modules to maximise the output of each module individually and to provide real-time data on system performance and health. Shawton agreed to fund the project through a 25-year PPA agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, it undertook to design, construct, operate and manage the solar installation on behalf of Burnley College for the lifetime of the project. The college will then buy the electricity generated from the solar modules located onsite at an index-linked rate of 11.68p/kWh – around one-third of what it is currently charged for grid electricity, all without any upfront investment.

“This system is an opportunity to help Burnley College on its decarbonisation journey and, at the same time, provide education about practicable renewable applications,” said Jamie Shaw, Managing Director, Shawton Energy. “The innovative technology brings substantial added value to the project by providing advanced built-in safety features, reliability and remote monitoring tools to allow us to create a system we can effectively manage and maintain for many years. As the owner and operator of the system, we see great benefit in the efficiencies, ease of operation and sophisticated monitoring capabilities provided by the SolarEdge products.”

To foster the advancement of renewable energy education, Burnley College further partnered with Shawton Energy on the development of a technology suite using SolarEdge products to allow students to learn about the capture, storage and transfer of renewable energy in real time. It also converted the college’s security hut from a grid-connected site into an off-grid system powered entirely by solar and wind, to demonstrate the advancement and potential of green energy solutions.

“As we evolve in a world where renewables are becoming an ever-important addition to the power grid, this project has a wider educational impact than might be obvious,” Shaw said. “We are partnering with Burnley College and SolarEdge not only to reduce energy costs, but to provide tools to educate students about the renewable energy world. We are proud to be part of a project with the potential to provide students with the proper education to get a head start on a career in the very exciting world of renewables.”

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