Water company has solar flair

North West water company United Utilities has novel plans to expand its generation of renewable energy from solar power.

The firm is considering installing solar canopies over the car parking bays at its head office in Warrington.

United Utilities already produces a significant amount of energy a year from ground-mounted solar arrays on more than 50 of its operational sites around the North West and there is even a floating solar array on a reservoir near Hyde.

The new solar canopies could produce up to 1.8GWh of power, helping offset a third of the site’s power demand from the National Grid. That would be equivalent to the power demands of 545 average houses.

Steve Slavin, Head of Renewable Energy at United Utilities, said: “Our headquarters at Lingley Mere are the offices for some 4,000 employees. There’s also a data centre and onsite restaurant so the demand for power is substantial.

“We already have solar arrays mounted on the roofs of some of the buildings, and now we are looking at how we can maximise the renewable potential of the land area taken up by the car parks.”

Solar canopies are more commonly seen in Europe and the United States, but the technology is becoming more and more efficient and affordable.

Steve Slavin added: “It’s our aim to reduce the amount of power we buy from the grid in order to control our operating costs and keep customers’ bills as affordable as possible.”

Slavin says the idea is still in the early planning stages, but if permission is granted construction could start as early as Spring 2018. The scheme could also include charging points to cater for the expected growth in ownership of electric vehicles. 

Notes to editors:
PHOTO CAPTION: Artist's impressions of the solar canopies.

United Utilities

United Utilities aims to generate a large proportion of its power from renewable sources by 2020. These sources include a mix of solar arrays, wind turbines, hydro turbines and the generation of power from sludge digestion at its wastewater treatment works.

United Utilities is the UK’s largest listed water company and manages the regulated water and waste water network in North West England - which includes Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside with a combined population of nearly seven million. United Utilities' head office is in Warrington. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and the FTSE 100 Index. In 2017 the company was awarded World Class Status in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the tenth year in succession.