Sunny Prospects

Sunny Prospects

A new Seco facility in the United Kingdom features an efficient solar array that saves money and CO2 emissions.

When the UK subsidiary of Seco moved to a more modern building in 2012, it made sure the new premises had solid green credentials.

Waterless urinals, centralized cooling systems and a state-of-the-art air conditioning system were all installed in the new facility in Alcester in Warwickshire, England.

But the most ambitious feature was a large solar array on the roof of the building, with the potential to reduce the production of greenhouse gases and lower power bills.

Superior solar panels

Philip Madkins, Seco UK’s Safety and Environmental Manager, says the company first investigated electricity-generating solar panels some years ago, but was not impressed by their efficiency.

“We looked into solar eight years ago at the old site, and the panels weren’t that efficient,’’ he says. “But today’s panels are far superior. You only need one panel today to do the job of 10 or 15 panels 10 years ago.”

Improved environmental performance

After undertaking research on different options, the company commissioned UK firm Sanctus Energy to carry out the installation of the chosen system, which features 200 Sanyo solar panels, with a maximum energy output of 50 kilowatts. Despite the oftencloudy conditions in Alcester, the system produces power every day.

“Even when it’s dull we’re producing 12 to 20 kilowatt hours (kWh) a day,” Madkins says. “On a sunny day that might go up to 80”

He says the system, which began operation in July 2012, had produced 17, 800 kWh of power by the end of the year. It is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 21 tonnes a year, bringing significant costs savings for Seco.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Madkins says.

Economically advantageous

He says the installation was funded with the assistance of Seco’s Green Fund, at a cost of 117,000 British pounds. The UK subsidiary receives a green energy incentive payment from the UK government for every kilowatt of power the new system generates. The company’s power bill has also dropped, and at quiet times, such as weekends, the output of the solar array exceeds Seco UK’s electricity requirements. The company is then able to earn money by exporting power to the grid.

Madkins says the system should pay for itself in eight to 12 years, depending on how efficient the solar panels prove to be. At the end of 25 years, the company should be better off to the tune of 381,000 pounds.

“It’s looking really promising,” he says. “We’ve had no problems with the panels or the inverters. It’s all just working away.”

Madkins suggests other companies, even those in cloudy areas, look into solar panels.

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