Bringing solar power to the Welsh Valleys

CleanEarth’s latest solar PV installation is a 250 kW system for Sharp Clinical’s European HQ in Rhymney, South Wales.

Once home to the Rhymney Ironworks, and powered by coal from the local collieries, this area of the Welsh Valleys is increasingly turning to renewable energy to power its 21st century industries.

Sharp Clinical’s recently completed facility houses their packaging, labelling and distribution services for clinical trial supplies. The refrigerated and frozen systems needed for secure drug storage come with hefty power demands, so on-site solar generation was an obvious choice to reduce Sharp Clinical’s electricity bills as well as their carbon emissions.

A multi-faceted solution

The purpose-built Rhymney facility presented Sharp Clinical with several ways to minimise their impact on the environment. In addition to the solar PV system, their £9 million investment also allowed them to purchase energy efficient plant, implement heat recovery and exchange into the air handling and compressor systems, and install motion sensor-controlled lighting.

At the heart of all this is a building management system that controls all aspects of the day-to-day site performance and provides a regular review of the energy used.

According to Mark Evans, Health and Safety Advisor at Sharp Clinical, “following the installation of the solar panels in partnership with CleanEarth, we are delighted to have been awarded a grade B environmental performance certificate (the second highest).”

Matching generation to demand

Balancing Sharp Clinical’s electricity demands with the generating capacity of the system was key to the financial viability of the project.

CleanEarth considered the load profile of the site during the design phase and proposed an east-west orientated array to ensure maximum self-consumption. This would prevent the midday peaks in generation associated with south-facing systems, maximising the electricity consumed on-site and minimising export to the grid.

Using the latest SolarEdge technology, the 888 panels will generate approximately 20% of the site’s electricity requirements. With an annual output of 200,000 kWh it will save 70,000 kg of carbon emissions every year – roughly 1,750 tonnes over its 25-year lifespan.

It will also save Sharp Clinical some £1 million on its energy bills over the same period.

Environmental responsibility

As the realities of climate change become ever more stark, the UK’s businesses are increasingly looking for ways to decarbonise their energy supply.

For Sharp Clinical’s parent company, UDG Healthcare, this is a logical extension of their existing commitment to sustainability. As Catherine Casey, EHS & Compliance lead, says, “we are delighted to announce this advance in our environmental programme and are committed to continually developing ways where we can make a positive impact on the environment.”

Busy time for solar

In addition to the Sharp Clinical project, CleanEarth have completed a number of other solar installations in the last couple of months, including a 30 kW system for Frontier Medical in Blackwood – just a few miles from Sharp’s Rhymney facility.

We’ve also installed a 22 kW system for Control Print in Redruth and a 75 kW system for the newly created Camborne Business Centre. The latter is a conversion of the old Camborne Fire Station by Specialist Business Units, and the age of the building presented some interesting engineering challenges. But by using a D-Dome east-west array and a specially designed mounting system from K2 Systems, we were able to maximise the capacity while safeguarding the roof.

More solar projects are in the pipeline. According to Ed Lennon, CleanEarth’s Commercial Manager, “we are still seeing good levels of interest despite the demise of the feed-in tariff. The price difference between self-generation and buying from the grid means that businesses can save money, get payback on their investment and reduce their carbon emissions.”


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