Monday, 14 April 2014

Solar Panel Array at New Jaguar Plant Rather Impressive

Jaguar Land Rover's new manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, sets a new standard for state-of-the-art design focusing on sustainability.  One of the more impressive parts of the facility is a rooftop solar panel array expected to supply 30% or more of the power needed from daily operations.  Overall, the building has been awarded a BREEAM rating of 'Excellent' for sustainable buildings.

As for the solar panel array, it consists of more than 21,000 photovoltaic solar collectors sitting atop the facility's engine manufacturing centre.  The panels have a current capacity of 5.8 MW;  designers plan to increase that capacity to 6.3 MW before the year is out.  Under optimal conditions, the system can produce enough power to supply more than 1,600 homes.  However, all of the power generated by this system will be used by the manufacturing facility.

Engineers were able to design and build the system as an integral part of the manufacturing centre because it was always part of the original architecture.  The new plant was built from the ground up with a keen focus on sustainability and emission reduction.  If the array performs as planned, it will reduce the facility's carbon footprint by more than 2,400 tonnes annually, however that's just the start of the benefits offered by the project.

Jaguar Land Rover has invested more than £500 million to build a facility that will manufacture advanced technology engines for future Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.  The company expects the site to create as many as 1,400 new jobs by the time it reaches full capacity yet, even at peak output, the manufacturing centre has been designed to minimise energy demand via state-of-the-art heating and lighting systems, design elements, natural ventilation and high-tech insulation.

Plans for future upgrades will further increase sustainability as well.  The company plans to develop an ecological habitat at one end of the property, complete with natural elements that will encourage wildlife to make it their home.  The development is part of a larger effort to encourage wildlife to move freely around the property, from one end to the other.

The Future of Photovoltaic

What Jaguar Land Rover has accomplished in South Staffordshire, especially in relation to its solar panel array, is very impressive.  To be able to generate 30% of the facility's power needs from the sun is quite an accomplishment by any measure nevertheless, we wonder what the future of photovoltaic power might be.

For example, could such a solar panel array produce significant power for a data centre application?  We are not sure.  Photovoltaic energy production does have certain limits scientists have been trying to overcome for decades.  Perhaps a better means of sustainable power for some applications is solar thermal.

In either case, we applaud Jaguar Land Rover for building their new state-of-the-art facility without sacrificing sustainability or environmental responsibility.  We wish them well in their efforts to produce a new high-tech engine that will be used to power their vehicles into the future.



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