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FlexiSolar deliver revolutionary solution with integrated solar carports

Posted on 14/08/2018

FlexiSolar deliver revolutionary solution with integrated solar carports

KTN’s Complex Systems team has worked with a wide range of companies to help them combine systems and signpost them to Innovate UK funding. Some of the most notable examples have been highlighted in a series of case studies which will be published over the next ten days.

Complex Systems covers the key application areas of space, robotics and autonomous systems, data analytics and defence and security, with a focus on engineering best practice for systems, intelligent applications and large-scale infrastructure. KTN’s interests are in the scalability, adaptability, resilience and security of these systems.

FlexiSolar’s project will demonstrate the use of solar photovoltaic arrays in combination with electric vehicle charge-point to provide low carbon power to charge vehicles. The project will use novel connection and peer-to-peer trading to allow local businesses to make use of excess generation. In addition a number of products will be integrated into the structures for the first time. Features can include intelligent LED powered under canopy lighting, and an intelligent parking solution to monitor the use of EV charge-point bays.

FlexiSolar formally entered the market at the end of 2017 as a design, manufacturing, installation and operations company specialising in the integration of solar panels, electric vehicle charging points and carports. The support from Innovate UK, as part of the department’s focus on driving forward innovations that will grow the UK economy, has now enabled FlexiSolar to fully commercialise its concept and rollout this integrated energy solution across the country.

As part of the project, FlexiSolar worked closely with BRE National Solar Centre to produce the new BRE guide, ‘Multifunctional Solar Car Parks: a good practice guide for owners and developers’.

The guide looks at the best way to deliver multifunctional solar car parks that combine renewable energy generation with energy storage and EV charging points.  It provides an outline of the key factors to be considered when developing a business case for a multifunctional car park project from planning through to delivery. These include funding models, planning permission, regulations, design options and procurement.

The new guide was officially launched at Ecobuild on 6th March 2018, in the ‘Quality and Performance in Construction – Technical Workshop’, with Adam Goves, FlexiSolar’s Business Development Director, presenting on the key benefits of a solar carport system.  The BRE Technical Guide is currently being finalised and will be published soon.

Along with the project deliverables, the process has also enabled FlexiSolar to grow its team to 14 office based personnel, with 35 on site. It has also developed further solar carport systems, including the design, manufacture and construction of a bespoke solar carport solution for a large multi-storey carpark in Sutton, South London, and the construction of the UK’s largest solar carport system at Bentley Motors’ manufacturing headquarters in Crewe, Cheshire.

Tailored solutions

The solar carport investment at Sutton’s Gibson Road multi-storey carpark, was self-funded by Sutton Council as part of its large solar PV programme, totaling an investment of more than £500k on solar PV developments across the borough. The Solar PV programme is one of several initiatives championed by the Council to reduce its carbon emissions and to increase its long-term energy resilience. The Council has set a very ambitious target of becoming a zero carbon council by 2025.

Speaking about the project, FlexiSolar’s Operations Director, Keenan Gratrick said: “This new project at the Gibson Road multi-story carpark demonstrates just how flexible our solar carport solutions can be. We worked closely with Sutton Council to develop a completely tailored solution, and one at height, to enhance the existing parking provision and fully harness the opportunity to capture energy from it.”

FlexiSolar’s solar carport structures are uniquely designed to best fit the requirements and scope of each site. Whilst FlexiSolar offers a range of carport products named after their style of frame and pitch position, the Sutton site required an entirely bespoke frame and rail design in light of its requirement to be built over two separate car park levels with differing angles.

FlexiSolar’s designers created a frame and solar panel rail system that would best suit the multi-storey position, and the weight limitations that the site brought with it. The resulting carport is sized at 133kWp, covers 57 car parking spaces, holds 492 solar panels and is expected to generate around 120,000kWh of energy per year, which is estimated to be enough energy to power all the lights in the Sutton Council offices for a year.

Speaking about its solar carport project, Rodrigo Matabuena, Energy Manager at the London Borough of Sutton said: “This is a very exciting project not only because financially it is an attractive proposition but also because we are creating a new landmark in the borough that will show our efforts to cut our carbon emissions. The Council is embracing the new digital era and this project is a clear statement of our commitment to adopt new green technologies as part of our daily operation.

FlexiSolar did a phenomenal job in understanding not only our technical needs but also all the political, environmental and social considerations that are involved in a Council-owned solar PV project. They have been an amazing partner and a key element of the success of this project.”

In a six-month project due to complete in September 2018, FlexiSolar will construct what is set to become the UK’s largest solar carport system to date. The bespoke solar structures will shelter approximately 1,378 car parking spaces at the Bentley manufacturing facility.

Bentley Motors creates handcrafted luxury cars at its factory in Crewe.  The prominent manufacturing site already demonstrates a strong commitment to solar as an onsite generation technology, having installed a 5MW solar rooftop installation in 2013.

Managing Director of FlexiSolar, Robert Carpenter said: “We are delighted to confirm details behind the large scale solar carport at Bentley’s manufacturing facility in Crewe. This large scale solar carport system is a clear example of an integrated energy solution; and one that utilises an existing parking area without sacrificing valuable land resources.”

Commenting on the installation, Peter Bosch, Bentley’s Member of the Board for Manufacturing, said: “We continue to focus on new initiatives that reinforce our commitment to the environment, whether this is introducing alternative powertrain technologies in future models, or our award-winning work to reduce the environmental impact of our factory.

This solar installation is another example of how we can make our factory more sustainable by using technological innovation. This helps us produce extraordinary cars with responsibly-sourced materials in an efficient manner, while continually striving to reduce the company’s environmental impact.”

In Crewe, FlexiSolar’s V-Frame Double Row Mono Pitch solar carport design will appear across 27 parking rows.  The carport system could cover 24 percent of Bentley’s electrical energy requirements and reduce CO2 by 3,300 tonnes per year.

The new solar carport system at Bentley has been funded by Guinness Asset Management under a power purchase agreement.

The Government understands it is vital that the UK becomes EV ready. To improve the air quality in our towns and cities and to meet our carbon emission reduction targets, the transition to cleaner electric vehicles is essential. One of the barriers to this transition in the UK is the lack of EV charge-point infrastructure and FlexiSolar’s large-scale solar carports offer both a clear solution to this infrastructure need, and the means to generate the energy required to power it.

With funding from Innovate UK, FlexiSolar has been able to demonstrate the viability of large scale solar car parking in the UK, and with improvements made to the product it has enabled them to be internationally competitive in the future.

Find out more about our complex systems team and how they could help your business here.