M&S launches UK’s largest rooftop solar project

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced it is fitting the UK's largest single-roof solar system on its East Midlands distribution centre in Castle Donington, to be completed in early 2015.

The solar PV system will span the site’s 900,000sq.ft roof – big enough to hold 11 football pitches – and generate more than 5,000MWh of electricity per year – enough to power 1,190 houses.

The 24,000-panel structure will lower M&S’s carbon footprint by 48,000 tonnes over the next 20 years, and the energy energy generated will be enough to make the automated distribution centre almost self-sufficient in daylight.

The project will take the British retailer one step closer to fulfilling its commitment to ensure 50% of the electricity used in its building operations comes from small scale renewable sources by 2020. That pledge forms part of the Plan A commitment which aims to make M&S the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

Industry leading

Commenting on this new development, M&S director of property Hugo Adams said: “This further enhances the sustainability credentials of our BREEAM Excellent Castle Donington site. Coupled with one of Europe’s largest solar thermal walls, the new solar PV system will make the building one of the most sustainable distribution centres in the world. We look forward to working with Amber Infrastructure on what is an industry leading project in terms of scale.”

Amber Infrastructure will be funding, supplying and installing the solar system, with M&S agreeing to purchase all of the electricity generated by the system through a 20 year Power Purchase Agreement.

The existing solar thermal wall at the Castle Donington site is equivalent to more than 16 tennis courts, and itself saves 250 tonnes of C02 per year.

The announcement comes the day after a Solarcentury report which found that commercial rooftop solar installations can reduce building running costs, help meet government targets for building performance and increase the value of the property by providing additional income streams.

Similarly, earlier in October, a study from Kingspan Energy revealed that installing solar PV on just 61% of the nation’s 2,500sq.km of south-facing commercial roof space would meet the total electricity demand of UK companies.

Brad Allen

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