Mini plant flicks switch on massive solar array

BusinessGreen staff

Oxford facility fits 3MW rooftop system across area the size of five football pitches

Mini's production plant in Oxford is now being powered by one of the largest solar rooftop systems in the UK.

More than 11,500 panels have been fitted across an area roughly the size of five football pitches to create a 3MW array capable of producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 850 households.

The system is financed, owned, installed, and maintained by Free Green Energy Corporation, which will sell the electricity to Mini under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The company expects this arrangement to reduce its carbon emissions by around 1,500 tonnes a year.

The building already boasts a range of environmental credentials including 3,869 individually programmable LED lights, a special energy-saving "rest mode" for the 1,000 robots in the plant's new bodyshop, and a water harvesting system to supply the toilets. Meanwhile, so-called 'heat wheels' in the building's roof control the recirculation and admission of fresh air to reduce the amount of artificial heating and cooling required.

"We are delighted that our new solar farm is now up and running and already producing green energy for Plant Oxford," said Frank Bachmann, managing director of Mini Plant Oxford. "It is fitting that the first of these panels have gone onto our new bodyshop as the building has been designed with environmental performance at its heart."

The news came in the same week as chemicals giant DuPont inaugurated a 4.5MW solar-power plant at its facility in Cernay, France.

The project consists of 18,400 panels spread over 15 acres, each of which is coated with advanced materials developed by DuPont that are designed to improve the power output, durability, and return on investment for solar energy systems.

The Cernay solar array is expected to produce five million kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar-generated electricity each year, roughly the equivalent to the annual amount of electricity consumed by 2,000 French households, and makes up the bulk of the 11 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity generated each year by 13 installations across DuPont's global estate.

"The solar park in Cernay is a prime example of DuPont demonstrating its commitment to develop collaborative and innovative solutions and helping to ensure a more energy secure future," said Martin Virot, country leader, DuPont France. "We are pleased to see this project realised in France, leveraging our advanced materials to ensure a well-performing, long-term source of electricity as we strive to meet the growing global energy demand more sustainably."

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