Lye Cross Farm
Solar panels boost green credentials and yield a £33,000 per year benefit for Lye Cross Farm
Three generations of the Alvis family have been farming and making traditional cheddar cheese at Lye Cross Farm in Bristol. Environmental responsibility has always been a primary aim for the Alvis family who process 45 million litres of milk a year at the farm. The cheese plant takes milk from 27 local farm suppliers and three of their own farms.
The business decided to build on their existing green efforts and install 676 agricultural solar panels on the roof of their cheese packing building. With about 3,000 tonnes of cheese in refrigerated storage at any one time, cooling is one of the business's main areas of energy use, along with running the packing equipment. These two areas alone require 600,000 units of energy per year.
After discussions with Mypower, the Alvis's decided PV was the best option to help meet the energy requirements of their packing and cheese storage halls.
Mypower's Ben Harrison recommended that the best option was to install a 172kW array along with six inverters to convert the energy into a useable form. As Lye Cross Farm is an energy-hungry business with a large, unused roof space, it was the perfect match for solar PV. With 95% utilisation of the solar electricity, this is exactly how PV should work - using the energy where it is produced.
Key facts and predictions - amended to September 2018 rates
- £137,500 - cost exc. VAT.
- 172kW - installed by Mypower.
- 170,000 - units of energy produced with 95% of the energy used on site.
- £25,000 - savings per year.
- 60 tonnes - CO2 emissions avoided per annum.
- 18.2% - ROI.
- 5.5 years - system payback before finance, tax and capital allowance benefits.
- £1,275,000 - the total projected income and savings over 25 years after indexation.
In its first full year of operation, from June 4th 2014, the system produced 186,509kWh of electricity compared to the PV Sol predicted figure of 168,433 used in Mypower's forecasts. This increase of 18,076kWh - 10.73% more than projected - is worth an extra £3,726 profit in just the first year.
This clearly evidences Mypower's approach of sensible and robust budgeting and forecasting to clients rather than overly optimistic claims to try and win business. It further highlights the real benefits of using high quality and high yielding REC panels.
Farm Operations Director, Nick Green, explained how installing solar PV would not only help improve the farm's carbon footprint, but would create electricity security while reducing costs and, ultimately, benefiting their farmer suppliers.
With the panels helping to avoid 72 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the use of renewable energy also helps the business create a strong marketing message for supermarkets. "We're becoming a more efficient business and, by doing so, we hope we can share this with our suppliers - after all, that's what it's all about", said Mr Green.
The system is predicted to produce over 3,750,000kWh over 25 years. Divide this into the capital agricultural solar panel cost, including finance over 6 years, and the effective cost of buying the electricity up front today is around 5.5p per kWh - fixed, and not subject to electricity price rises. This compares to a typical grid supplied electricity rate of over 14p per kWh.
Peter Alvis commented: "We are very pleased with the PV installation. Not only is it perfectly matched to our refrigeration requirement, producing more electricity when we need the most refrigeration, it is also performing above expectation. The installation itself was hassle-free and didn't impact on the day-to-day operations here at Lye Cross Farm. Overall, a very worthwhile project".
"We were confident in the panels Mypower were using and the ability of Mypower to deliver, and they have proved us right.
From initial discussions to installation it has taken just 4 months".
Nick Green, Farm Operations Director - Lye Cross Farm