Solar power solution to soaring energy bills

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Renewable energy, Photovoltaics

Solar solution to soaring energy bills?
Solar solution to soaring energy bills?
Suffolk veg packer and farming business Frederick Hiam is banking on significantly lower energy bills after installing a £1.5m solar power electricity generation system at its site near Brandon.

The company installed the solar panels, with the help of renewable energy provider RenEnergy, on eight roofs of its vegetable washing, grading and packing plant plus its onion grading facility.

The solar panels are expected to generate 637,687 kWh/year and lead to an annual carbon saving of 329t over 12 months. The energy will be used for hydro cooling parsnips and carrots, chilling potatoes and general cold storage together with for drying, cold storing, grading and packing 12,000t of onions.

Damian Baker, RenEnergy’s managing director told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Solar PV [power generation] is a proven global technology.

Quick and easy

When compared with other technologies it is relatively quick-and-easy to install providing you have a suitable roof or area of land to site the system. The technology will assist in reducing electricity bills, especially for heavy users like Frederick Hiam and it also attracts government support.”

Clive Malpass, financial director at Frederick Hiam said: “With ever increasing electricity costs we started looking into renewable sources several years ago, first with Combined Heat and Power and then Pyrolysis Gasification, both of these had some way to go in terms of reliable technology on a large scale, furthermore both needed a considerable consistent fuel source which was not readily available.

“Solar PV on the other hand requires only a natural source, sunlight and it is free. We have installed 326 kW on our Frederick Hiam Foods Factory and we will use virtually 100% of the generated power, there is another 235 kW on six onion stores which will use all the power generated when the stores are full of onions, when empty the power will be exported to the grid.”

Ren-Energy explained that such systems produce electricity during daylight hours year-round; even on cloudy days. But peak output is in the summer when food and beverage manufacturers need large amounts of energy for cooling.

Optimal orientation

Most food and beverage manufacturers have large roofs which are suitable for the panels, said Baker. “The optimal orientation is due at a pitch of 30 degrees; this is where the panels work most effectively but small adjustments either side will not greatly reduce efficiency,”​ he added.

“The South East and South West are better than Northern Highlands but in most of the UK the systems will generate a decent amount of electricity.”

Nick Gilford, commercial director at Frederick Hiam, said: “With the current economic climate, all businesses have to consistently look at ways to reduce some of the ever-increasing input costs; renewable energy was a clear business case winner.

“It’s an excellent step towards significantly reducing our carbon emissions, and we are positive that the business will be looking at other alternative ways to help reduce both cost and our carbon foot print​.”

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