Solar Energy at NCI Portland Bill
By Bob Ward – Project Manager Solar Energy
In 2013 the Station Manager and Management Committee at Portland Bill – as part of their ongoing commitment to save running costs and increase efficiency – decided to investigate renewable energy solutions.
Senior Watchkeeper Bob Ward was asked to look into possible ways to reduce the electricity bill for the Station, currently running at approx £1K per annum.
It became clear that there were only two viable ECO solutions – wind power and solar power. Each would generate electricity for the Watchroom and reduce that taken from the national grid.
A short investigation showed that a wind powered turbine at the Portland Bill location was not a viable option – due to unit cost and the danger to migrating birds. This left solar – the generation of electricity by light sensitive panels – erected as in domestic situations, either on a roof or on a ground mounted framework (angled towards the south).
A short technical study revealed that the best solar solution was that similar to a normal domestic fit – 16 panels generating 4kWp and a standard inverter to convert the dc power generated to 240 volts 50Hz ac which could then help to support the electrical requirement of the Lookout.
A particular problem was whether the 16 panels could be roof mounted, not an option above the main Watchroom because of the radio aerials and radar scanner, but might be possible above the recently installed Training Centre. The advantage was that no Planning Permission would be required. The disadvantage was their vulnerability to the wind in this very exposed location.
It was decided that the solar panels should be ground mounted on a substantial framework inside the NCI compound. However, permission would be required from the Local Authority and Natural England (as the location is within a SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest)
During 2014 a long dialogue took place with Natural England and only the intervention of Richard Drax, the local MP enabled the NCI to obtain the relevant permission to site the solar panels as needed.
In late 2014 a contract was let with a highly recommended local company – H2ECO of Poole – to conduct the installation. An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) was next obtained for the building and the technical specification finalised. Due to the advancement in technology only 14 panels would be required.
Installation was conducted in Spring 2015 and the system was generating power by 31st Mar 2015. It comprised 14 solar panels mounted within the NCI compound on a substantial framework, an inverter and various switchgear in order to comply with all relevant regulations. The system is guaranteed for 25 years.
The system may be monitored on line at any time by H2ECO and the Project Manager. A small monitor has been installed in the Watchroom to show the duty watchkeepers the instantaneous performance.
During the 2015 summer quarter the system has reduced the normal electricity bill by £200 and also raised £250 in generation tariffs from the government.
A formal opening ceremony was performed on 21Aug15 by Richard Drax. Many valued guests who supported the fundraising needed were present, accompanied by approx 25 watchkeepers.