Duke taps into the sun

SOLAR panels have been installed at an Alnwick industrial estate, as part of the Duke of Northumberland’s ongoing commitment to make his business more environmentally-friendly.

The trial project at Hotspur Court on the Lionheart Enterprise Park will test the technology and should the scheme prove successful, it could be rolled out elsewhere.

It’s the latest endeavour by the Duke, whose pro-active renewable energy policy has seen a Victorian hydro system restored to use on the River Aln, with plans to extend it to other locations.

And he’s also exploring the feasibility of a biomass project, while all his Estates’ new housing and other development schemes embrace green technology, including combined heat and power schemes for heating, grey water and recycling.

Graham Caygill, clerk of works at Northumberland Estates, said: “The photovoltaic (PV) array, comprising 40 sharp solar panels, is located on the unit’s roof and is therefore out of sight from ground level.

“Once the building is let, the tenant will benefit from green electricity and the Estate from the Feed in Tariff (FiT) which applies to all renewable energy schemes, with any surplus energy exported back into the National Grid.

“It is this FiT which makes the investment by Northumberland Estates a viable proposition. The PV at Hotspur Court should be capable of producing in the region of 10,000kw hours of power per annum. To get some perspective the average single domestic property will use around 6,000kw hours per year, so the potential output is not insignificant.”

The project has been managed and the panels installed by Alnwick-based Pickard Electricals Ltd, which has recently formed a new division of the business, Natural Energy Installations, specialising in this type of technology.

Boss Neil Pickard said: “This is an exciting scheme, as it is one of the first of its kind in Alnwick. In general, an investor can expect a return of between 10 and 14 per cent from a scheme such as this, with most of the return coming from the FiT.

“There is so much scope for green energy using PV, not only on industrial sites such as Hotspur, but also in domestic and rural locations.

“The dreadful snow we had last winter brought down many farm buildings and with these now being repaired or replaced, this is an ideal time for farmers to look at PV and see if the investment can be made to work, as well as home-owners.”