Marks & Spencer recently announced that it will be installing the UK’s largest solar roof by mid 2015 at its distribution centre at Castle Donnington. The roof array will be linked to one of Europe’s largest solar thermal walls, which when combined will make the site close to self sufficient during daylight hours. ‘This further enhances the sustainability credentials of our BREEAM Excellent Castle Donnington site’ says Director of Property at M&S, Hugo Adams.
This giant step forward in UK solar roof arrays is part of a larger M&S resilience plan called simply “Plan A.” Their website states that the solar roof “will help take the retailer one step closer to fulfilling its commitment to ensure 50 percent of the electricity used in our building operations comes from small scale renewable sources by 2020.” Plan A was set up by M&S in 2007 and has helped the supermarket achieve a number of other green objectives such as sending no waste to landfill and becoming carbon neutral.
Though a lot smaller than the world’s largest solar roof being installed by L&T in India, the M&S installation will be a big step for the UK’s green economy as these large scale installations are still few and far between. Getting large scale renewable projects through the UK planning system can be fraught with difficulty on such a densely populated island, along with strong green belt protection. However, commercial sites seem to be a great way to generate green electricity without upsetting local communities and could be the most sensible growth area for UK solar.
The large vacant roofs above stores and warehouses are perfect for retrofitting, and government incentives like the feed-in-tariff help to reduce the pay back period for these installations. Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury’s supermarket, says “Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised so is ideal for turning that space into something positive.”
Sainsbury’s recently announced that is in on track to fit 170,000 solar panels on its stores by spring 2015, (it has already installed 135,500 across its sites in the UK.) So the future of solar as a realistic choice for green businesses in the UK looks promising. Indeed, it may not be very long before the crown of ‘Largest Solar Roof’ is snatched from M&S by another UK rival sometime very soon.
Via Marks & Spencer
All images via Marks & Spencer