UK developer Lightsource Renewable Energy has announced the development of a 5MW rooftop solar array at Bentley Motors' factory, said to be the largest installation of its kind in the UK.

The 20,000 solar panel installation is on the roof of Bentley's factory in Crewe, making use of 3.45 hectares of roof space. Lightsource said the array would generate enough energy to power over 1,200 households and is three times more powerful than the current largest roof mounted system in the UK.

Lightsource anticipates that at peak generation times, the system will produce up to 40% of Bentley’s energy requirements and reduce CO2 usage by over 2,500 tonnes per year. With a two way connection, during the summer, weekends and shutdown periods excess energy generated can be fed back into the National Grid.

Speaking to PV-Tech’s sister site, Solar Power Portal, Nick Boyle, chief executive of Lightsource, said: “The installation on Bentley Motors' factory demonstrates the tremendous potential the UK’s rooftops have for harnessing the power of the sun.

“The advantage from Bentley’s perspective is that what we’ve done is absolutely no cost to them. What they get for no effort is electricity at a price that is firstly discounted from their current cost and secondly, probably more importantly, will only increase by RPI year-on-year for the next 25 years.

“Not only are we undercutting what they pay at the moment but we are also future-proofing, giving them price certainty for the element of electricity that we are generating. For a company with such significant electricity requirements, for them to secure up to 40% at a fixed price is massively valuable to them. I think in a funny way that price security is every bit as important as the price reduction.” 

Boyle continued: “With greater policy stability, the UK’s solar market is set to go from strength-to-strength this year. Projects such as the Bentley Motor’s rooftop array demonstrate the benefits to both companies and individuals for reducing their environmental impact and achieving a real return on investment.”

According to a recent NPD Solarbuzz analysis, the UK has been forecast to approach 10% of global PV demand this quarter. The UK market is predicted to exceed the 0.5GW level for the first time ever in a single quarter and become the fifth largest PV market globally during quarter one of this year.

Michael Straughan, Bentley’s Member of the Board for Manufacturing, said: “Unlikely as it may seem our 1940s plant in Crewe is ideally situated to generate solar power as the ‘saw tooth’ factory roofs are south facing at an angle of 20 degrees.

“We take the sustainability of our products and factory extremely seriously and we are always looking for ways to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency. The panels will reduce our energy costs and help ensure that our manufacturing operations in Crewe are efficient, sustainable and globally competitive.”

Bentley’s site in Crewe is already one of the UK’s most sustainable automotive plants, having been one of the first to secure ISO 50001. The full array will be completed by the end of March 2013.

-Lightsource's Nick Boyle will be discussing the UK's growing large-scale solar market at the Large Scale Solar UK Conference on 24-25 April organised by PV-Tech's publisher Solar Media. 'Building a sustainable large-scale solar industry in the UK after April 2013', to be held in Truro, Cornwall, will explore the renaissance of the large-scale solar industry in the UK and the commercial and investment opportunities it offers. Further information is available here