Big Solar Co-op complete 300 kW roof in Tenbury Wells

07 Dec 23

The Big Solar Co-op and Kerry Taste & Nutrition

The Big Solar Co-op is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to putting solar on every suitable big roof in Britain, with a core team of experienced staff, a national network of volunteers, and competitive finance from 500 investor members.

The Big Solar Co-op finances the solar PV installations themselves, raising money (over £1m to date) from a UK-wide community of investor members. That means zero upfront capital cost to businesses that host Big Solar Co-op panels. The Big Solar Co-op then offers a long-term fixed price power purchase agreement (PPA) to host organisations, with an option to buy out after five years.

Global food company Kerry Taste & Nutrition are looking to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, and manage volatile energy costs. From an initial contact in late 2020, The Big Solar Coop and Kerry T&N together overcame the challenges of the pandemic, and issues with structural, data and insurance requirements, to install a 294kW solar system on the roof of Kerry T&N’s Shropshire plant. The installation is projected to generate 250MWh of electricity annually, and save Kerry T&N almost £200,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years. This protects the company from energy market volatility and contributes to the future sustainability of the business and local jobs.

The Project

Like many businesses, Kerry Taste & Nutrition was facing rising energy bills. In addition, as a food sector company, Kerry T&N had to maintain high standards of hygiene throughout any works on their site.

Gordon Coppock is a Herefordshire-based energy expert, and one of the Big Solar Co-op’s national network of volunteers. Grid information from Western Power Distribution suggested that grid capacity might be available for a large solar installation at Kerry T&N’s plant in Shropshire.

Gordon was already a strong supporter of energy co-operatives, and initially started this project in 2020 on behalf of Pomona Solar CoOp Ltd where he is a director. As the Big Solar Co-op started to become established, it was decided by the Pomona board to work with them to facilitate this project.

From Kerry T&N’s acceptance of the initial Big Solar Co-op proposal at the end of 2021 to the commissioning of the system in August 2023, several obstacles had to be overcome. As an international company, all contractual steps with Kerry T&N had to be confirmed via the HQ in Ireland. A structural survey was needed to confirm the load-bearing capacity of the roofs, and the results of the survey meant that the solar array needed to be redesigned. Insurance policies also required several measures additional to those required by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which were taken on board to achieve an insurance-compliant installation.

The Solar Installation

The installation comprises 763 panels with a capacity of 294 kWp, projected to generate an average of over 250 MWh annually. This is equivalent to 62 households’ annual energy consumption. The installation is projected to save Kerry T&N almost £200,000 over 20 years, and to save 52 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the first year alone. The modules, monitoring system and cabling was installed by Basingstoke Energy Co-operative, working with their partners Ecogen Energy and JPH Electricals.

The Big Solar Co-op has an experienced team, and uses only high quality components – including German-made Meyer Burger panels, with the strongest environmental and human rights credentials of any solar panels on the UK market. Although not the lowest cost panels, their high efficiency and long term energy production combined with the Big Solar Co-op’s low cost of capital and non-profit approach allows a competitive price for the solar energy generated by their panels.

Wind & Sun were proud to help by supplying the Meyer Burger panels and the Fronius inverters used in the project.

A Model For Other Businesses

Kerry T&N is a major employer in South Shropshire and the reduction in operating costs resulting from the solar installation will help ensure the company continues to contribute to the local economy, especially at a time when other costs are rising sharply. The price is fixed for 30 years, rising only with inflation. This gives Kerry T&N stability and security in its energy costs. However, Kerry T&N also has an option to buy out the contract after five years. We believe that the Big Solar Co-op is the only developer offering this option in the UK market.

“I saw for myself at Kerry Taste and Nutrition the way in which imaginative community energy projects, such as the community funded Big Solar Co-op scheme here in Burford, can fund capital costs while reducing business operating costs, as well as reducing our reliance on traditional carbon fuel sources.”

Philip Dunne MP, Chair of the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee

Products used

Meyer Burger Black

Meyer Burger Black

2 models available
From £169.12

Meyer Burger modules are especially climate-friendly because they produce more emission-free energy and for a longer period of time. They are manufactured in accordance with the strictest environmental standards without using lead, using fewer solvents and made in production facilities powered with energy from renewable resources. They will also recycle end-of-life modules as completely as possible.

Fronius Tauro Direct Variant

Fronius Tauro Direct Variant

3 models available
From £5,097.60

Commercial 3-phase 50kW & 100kW inverters. Direct version - with multiple DC inputs, tailored to decentralised design with 20A fuses integrated as standard. The Tauro has 3 MPP Trackers and the Tauro Eco a single MPP Tracker.

Fronius Symo Inverters

Fronius Symo Inverters

8 models available
From £1,218.07

With power categories ranging from 3.0 to 20.0 kW, the transformerless Fronius Symo is the three-phase inverter for every system size. Two MPPT for maximum flexibility. Data monitoring included.