Patience and persistence pay off for CleanEarth and Sonardyne

Thwarted for three years by a lack of grid capacity, we’ve finally managed to get Sonardyne’s global HQ equipped with over half a megawatt of solar generation.

We first explored the options with the underwater technology company back in 2016. Their site in Hampshire runs across three buildings – the nautically named Ocean House, Haven House and Fathom House – each of which was suitable for installing solar panels.

But the problem was in getting permission to connect the systems to the grid. Fault level issues at the nearby substation meant that the distribution network operator, SSE, was unable to provide a connection until upgrade works had been completed. Despite our best efforts to find a solution, the project was put on hold.

Good things come to those who wait

By the time SSE approved the connection in late 2019, Sonardyne could have been forgiven for moving on and finding alternative ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

But they stuck with the plan – and with CleanEarth – and in March we started installing the 1,300 panels across three different roofs. We ran the projects in parallel over six weeks, working to minimise disruption to Sonardyne’s daily operations.

Now completed, the three systems total 533 kW and will generate 470,000 kWh per year – around 25% of the site’s power consumption. This will make an annual saving of 120 tonnes of carbon emissions while also shaving a welcome £50k off Sonardyne’s electricity bill.

Carl Holland, Sonardyne’s HSE Manager, commented: “It’s taken a while but it’s been worth the wait! We know it’s vital that we reduce our carbon emissions, and the business case was pretty compelling too. Hats off to CleanEarth for staying the course and getting the outcome we were all aiming for.”

Every cloud …

One silver lining in the three-year wait was the advance in PV technology over that period. The original spec was for 270-watt modules, but contemporary modules are now up to 405 watts. We’ve also installed industry-leading SolarEdge inverters which allow us to monitor the performance of individual panels, helping reduce the LCOE (Levelised Cost of Electricity) produced by the system over the next 25 years.

While we’d all have preferred to do the job back in 2016, the improved efficiency of the system is some compensation for the delay.

In the shadow of lockdown

As the project neared completion, the Covid-19 crisis erupted. We were fortunate to be able to finish the job while observing new safety measures to minimise the added risks posed by the virus.

As Ed Lennon, CleanEarth’s Commercial Manager said, “This project has been a long time in the making so it’s rewarding to see it come to fruition, although the circumstances right now mean everyone is rightly focused on more pressing issues.”

As we all adjust to the impact of Covid-19 on every aspect of our daily lives, the CleanEarth team is trying to maintain as much normal operation as possible. Office-based staff are essentially working from home, and work on-site has been curtailed and working practices modified.

We are fortunate that we can still conduct a great deal of our work despite the restrictions on movement and contact. So we are still progressing planning and development of wind turbine and solar PV projects, as well as maintaining our clients’ and our own existing systems.

A crisis within a crisis

In a time of such uncertainty, there is one thing (unfortunately) that we know will be true when this crisis is behind us: the climate will stiil be getting warmer and the need to reduce emissions will only be greater and more urgent than it is today.

So it’s genuinely good news that companies like Sonardyne are still committing to cutting their carbon budget by investing in renewable energy.

Ed Lennon put it this way: “Everyone’s rightly concentrating on near-term priorities at the moment. But the threat from global warming hasn’t gone away, and the UK needs to be adding terawatts of renewables every year.

“As you’d expect businesses are being cautious with investments until they know the shape of the post-lockdown economy,” said Lennon. “But we’re still talking to clients about their sustainability plans, and the current crisis seems to have highlighted for many people how urgently we need to act.”


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