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M&S leads way with roof-mounted solar power

07 April 2015

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has completed the installation of the UK’s largest single roof mounted solar panel array on its East Midlands distribution centre in Castle Donington.

With the final panel laid and the system fully commissioned, the solar PV array will span the site’s 900,000 sq ft roof and will generate over 5,000 MWh of electricity per year, the equivalent amount of energy to power 1,190 houses.

The 24,272 PV panel structure, which would cover 25 miles if the panels were laid end to end, will lower M&S’s carbon footprint by 48,000 tonnes over 20 years. The energy generated will provide nearly 25% of the energy required for the fully automated distribution centre, which is big enough to hold 11 football pitches. 

The record-breaking PV array will help M&S maintain its commitment of sourcing 100% of its electricity for UK and Ireland buildings from renewable sources, with 50% sourced from small scale renewable sources by 2020.

Hugo Adams, director of property at M&S, said: "The completion of this project is hugely exciting for everyone at M&S. It is the first significant step in a number of solar energy initiatives we are planning this year. The scale of the project demonstrates our ambitious goals and long term commitment to onsite renewable energy.”

Amber Rudd, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said: "There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations – and this is a great example of how businesses can reap the benefits.”

The project is the first of a number of onsite renewable initiatives set to be rolled out this year by M&S, and is another step on the retailer’s carbon reduction journey. Since the launch of Plan A in 2007, M&S has lowered its carbon emissions by 37% and is carbon neutral across its worldwide operations.

M&S has agreed a Power Purchase Agreement with leading infrastructure specialist Amber Infrastructure, which will be supplying and maintaining the 6.1MWp solar panel array, having now completed its installation. The agreement runs for 20 years, with commitment from M&S to purchase all the electricity generated by the solar panels. 

VIDEO: To watch a time lapse video of the construction of the solar panel roof at Castle Donington click here.

Investment barriers eased

Savills Energy is welcoming moves from DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) to remove key investment barriers from the rooftop solar installation process for property owners, investors and developers. 

DECC has confirmed that it will be now possible, from 2019, for building-mounted solar panels to be moved to a different location without losing Feed in Tariff (FiT) accreditation, and that schemes up to one megawatt (1MW) in size will no longer require full planning approval before permission is granted.

The move to allow FiT transference is a result of the DECC consultation into the transferability of building-mounted solar PV installations. This followed a review into the change of planning for solar rooftop schemes held last year, which Savills Energy consulted on. Under the former FiT scheme, an accredited installation would have been required to stay in the same position for 20 years – despite the fact that 65% of the UK’s commercial property assets are leasehold and commercial lease lengths are on average less than a decade long.

A campaign conducted by Savills Energy earlier this year urged property owners, tenants and developers to have their say on the review and to seize the opportunity to shape the future of commercial solar. The feedback gained by Savills was subsequently submitted to DECC as part of the review.

Additionally, a new permitted development right has increased the development threshold for rooftop solar panels on commercial property from 50KW to 1MW, which means installations up to this size no longer require full planning permission.