UK’s largest solar carport at Nottingham leisure centre

Commercial solar PV developer EvoEnergy has completed the UK’s largest solar carport at a leisure centre owned by Nottingham City Council.

The 354-panel, 88.5 KWp system was designed and installed by EvoEnergy across nine separate, specially-built roofs at Ken Martin Leisure Centre.

It is the latest energy-efficiency measure to be taken by the city council and was built following the success of its first solar carport – the 67 kWp system at Harvey Hadden Sports Village which EvoEnergy delivered last year.

The array at Ken Martin should cut the council’s carbon footprint by 41 tonnes a year, generating 79,874 kWh of energy – 100 per cent of which will be used on site.

Michael Brien, project manager for EvoEnergy, said: “We’ve partnered with the council on numerous solar projects now since 2011, including its first solar carport at Harvey Hadden last summer. This time around we’ve helped them build the largest solar carport in the country; an accolade which really highlights the size of the council’s commitment to energy efficiency.

“This installation posed a number of challenges to our team on-site, but the team at Ken Martin were extremely happy with the way we worked around their day-to-day operations, causing them as little disruption as possible.

“The results have impressed them too, thanks to the work of our technical team, who’ve made sure the latest technology was used to help keep it performing efficiently for the duration of its Feed-in Tariff (FiT).”

The Ken Martin solar carport was fitted over three months between November and January in time to beat the recent cut to the FiT. It will save the council around £10,000 a year on its energy bills, and should pay for itself within 11 years, after which point it will earn Nottingham City Council an income for the remaining nine years of the FiT.

Rather than using a traditional string setup, which only performs as well as the least efficient module, it uses SolarEdge optimisers connected to pairs of modules to make the whole system safer and more efficient.

Its heartbeat communication system lets individual panels talk directly to the inverter in pairs, so in the event of one panel breaking or losing efficiency during the next two decades, only two from the whole array will be affected; individual module monitoring will also allow EvoEnergy to swiftly remedy any issues.

As a result of an optimised system the inverters are half the size of standard inverters. Their performance can be accessed in real-time online, and they make the whole PV system safer by dropping the power supply from 1,000v to 21v in the event of a fire or broken cable.

Councillor Alan Clark, Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, said: “The solar carport is an ingenious solution for maximising our assets, generating income and lowering the city’s carbon emissions. Car parks although serving a practical purpose and very necessary for our thousands of customers that visit our leisure centres are not usually seen as cutting edge. It’s really exciting that we have been able to extend the usefulness of this space and invest in a green energy supply for Nottingham.” 

Given the nature of the install, over a frequently-used carpark outside a popular public building, EvoEnergy took extra steps in order to minimise disruption. Ropes and scissor lifts were used to avoid any danger to the public during the panel fitting process, while the install was completed in staggered phases to keep as many car parking spaces open as possible.