We are now a Solar Powered Chocolate Factory!
Though we’ve used 100% renewable energy suppliers since 2014, we’ve always wanted to go a step further and generate our own electricity. It makes perfect sense, we have an industrial roof, and our production energy usage is very well matched to solar energy generation. Our production is daytime 10 to 4pm, and in the summer when it gets hotter we use more cooling through heat pumps.
A potted history of our journey to install solar…
Attempt 1 – 2009
We original tried to install solar when we first opened here in 2009, through a community energy roof lease scheme. The problem being our electricity usage match to solar generation was so good, that with the reduction of feed in tariff, it didn’t add up financially for the community energy company to put free ones in. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford them at that point in time as the cost of panels was so much higher than current pricing.
Attempt 2 – 2019
In 2019 having paid off the ‘chocolate factory’ mortgage, we decided to try again. However for complex reasons HMRC rules considered the panels portable. So we had to wait again.
Attempt 3 – 2021
So last year with the cost of Solar falling significantly we tried again. We went through the Zero Chippenham community solar scheme. This allowed access to trusted installers with a discount through the pooled power of community buying.
We went for the maximum number of panels we could install without blocking out natural light. This resulted in a 35 panel scheme – 12kW installed on a three phase supply. However, though our panels were on an industrial roof, as they were within 1 metre of the roof edge, we needed planning permission. For reasons we don’t fully understand planning permission took many months and our plans were rejected twice along the way. Eventually I kept a local architect friend fed in chocolate whilst he produced plans worthy of Sir Christopher Wren. Several months later and an apology from the planning office and we’re finally installed and generating.
We should generate around 9000 kW hours a year which is around 2/3 of our annual usage. We are already net zero scope 1 and 2, so the excess generated at weekends should help to offset some of our scope 3 supply chain emissions.
Our solar installation will also stabilise our production costs as our electricity prices were due to rocket in the summer. We’ve been fortunate, or perhaps wise, that many of the decisions we made pre 2020 for sustainability reasons, have helped us avoid many of the problems hitting manufacturers over the last few years due Brexit and Covid.
Though our attempts to install solar came long before the current energy crisis. We knew it was the right thing to do.