Kent farm uses the sun to keep stores cool

A cold store in Kent has installed a large solar photovoltaic system to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and generate additional revenue.

The 83.66kWp roof-mounted system at Broadwater Farm in West Malling will provide enough electricity to maintain the temperatures of between -0.5C and +4.5C required for storing 1,000 tonnes of apples and pears.

The system, which consists of 356 LDK multi-crystalline PV modules covering almost 600sq m, cost £256,000 (including VAT) to install (see table below). It will provide over 67MWh of power to the cold store, generating annual revenue of £26,000. It is also estimated to provide an annual CO2 saving of just over 38t.

The installation, developed by solar design and installation company Photon Energy, was completed just ahead of the 1 August Feed-in Tariff reduction and so qualified for the higher payment rate of 31.4p/kWh – instead of the 19p/kWh that systems of 50-150kW now receive.

A full structural assessment of the cold store was undertaken and additional bracing added to the structure so it could take the weight of the PV system – the panels typically weigh around 20kg each.

“Tree fruit, such as apples and pears are one of the most sustainable foods available,” Peter Checkley, farm manager of Broadwater Farm, said. “However, the cold storage needed to ensure such fruit is available year-round is often dependent on fossil fuels. Photon Energy’s solar PV installation goes a long way toward solving this problem and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Photon Energy technical director Lucy Aitchison added: “The installation was a challenging project as it needed to be completed in a short space of time before the new Feed-in Tariff rates were set in place. The large amount of electricity consumption from a cold store such as the one at Broadwater Farm maximises the benefits of the Feed-in Tariff from solar PV, especially as they will reap the rewards of the rates previously set in April 2010.”

Broadwater Farm solar costs 

 Equipment cost  £169,000 (excl VAT)
 Grid connection  £1,200 (inc VAT)
Planning cost (not included in the total figure)  £1,200 (excl VAT)
 Additional structural work  £6,250 (excl VAT)
 Total cost (excl planning)  £256,000 (inc VAT)