Powering forward

Spearheading the construction industry’s move to a more sustainable future, Litecast Ltd., has installed a 350kW SolarEdge PV rooftop system at its new £13 million production facility in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Comprising more than 1000 solar panels installed with SolarEdge Power Optimizers with module-level monitoring capability, the installation is forecast to produce more than 284MW of electricity and offset the production of almost 80 tonnes of carbon each year. As such, it will play a major role in helping Litecast to achieve its goal to become the UK’s first carbon neutral construction supply company by the end of 2022.

Litecast is a precast concrete company that specialises in the manufacture of concrete floor beams that are used extensively in housebuilding. To meet rocketing demand for its products due to the recent spike in housebuilding in the UK, it has embarked on a major expansion project, starting with the opening of the 60-acre site in Nuneaton. Despite the company’s ambitious plans for growth, it is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its business.

Nick Spicer, Managing Director of Your Eco UK, the renewable energy specialist chosen to undertake the install, says: “Litecast is leading the transformation of the construction industry through its pioneering use of energy-efficient technology and processes. When it came to installing a solar solution, it was looking for a system that would generate the maximum amount of energy, while also delivering more value over its lifetime through reduced maintenance costs, longer warranties and advanced safety features.”

The full scope of the solar install at the Litecast site includes 1,019 solar panels, 511 SolarEdge Power Optimizers, nine SolarEdge inverters and a SolarEdge weather station. SolarEdge Power Optimizers increase energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually. This eliminates the energy mismatch that typically occurs in traditional string inverter systems, potentially increasing energy output between two and ten per cent over the system’s lifetime. Furthermore, the Power Optimizers monitor the performance of each module in real time and communicate performance data to the SolarEdge monitoring platform, meaning that Litecast will enjoy enhanced, cost-effective module-level maintenance.

“The ability to monitor the performance of the install in real time was particularly important to Litecast as it is keen to use the energy produced onsite as efficiently as possible,” explains Spicer. “While in linear terms the PV system will supply enough electricity to meet the site’s entire annual energy requirements, with no battery currently in place to provide energy storage any unused energy would have to be sent to the grid. Litecast plans to overcome this by integrating information from the monitoring system and weather station to identify times of peak energy generation. It will then move production schedules to coincide with these times, ensuring it is able to use as much of the solar energy as possible.”

SolarEdge’s advanced safety features, including SafeDC, which automatically reduces output voltage to a touch-safe 1V during maintenance, and arc fault detection, were other important factors for LiteCast in its decision to choose a SolarEdge DC-optimised solution. Meanwhile, further peace of mind is provided by the long warranties offered on both the inverters and Power Optimizers – 12 years and 25 years, respectively.

Spicer concludes: “The construction industry has a reputation for being slow to embrace energy-efficient technologies, but Litecast is completely turning this notion on its head. Very soon, the company will install a battery at the Nuneaton site to provide essential energy storage, bringing it another step close to its 100 per cent carbon neutral goal. In the meantime, it will continue to utilise the features of SolarEdge’s DC-optimised solution to ensure that it is not only able to generate the most energy possible, but also that it can use that energy in the most efficient way.”

· 350kW solar installation forecast to generate approximately 284MW of electricity and offset almost 80 tonnes of carbon each year
· Module-level monitoring will enable Litecast to synchronize key processes with times of peak energy production, optimizing solar energy use

SolarEdge is a global leader in smart energy technology. By leveraging world-class engineering capabilities and with a relentless focus on innovation, SolarEdge creates smart energy solutions that power our lives and drive future progress. SolarEdge developed an intelligent inverter solution that changed the way power is harvested and managed in photovoltaic (PV) systems. The SolarEdge DC-optimized inverter seeks to maximize power generation while lowering the cost of energy produced by the PV system. Continuing to advance smart energy, SolarEdge addresses a broad range of energy market segments through its PV, storage, EV charging, batteries, UPS, electric vehicle powertrains, and grid services solutions.

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