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EvoEnergy provides solar energy solution for BMW's 'Mini' plant in Oxford, UK

3 MW rooftop array, which covers 20,000 square metres, is now supplying green power to BMW's recently opened body shop production line.

When automobile manufacturer BMW wanted to cut its carbon footprint by increasing its use of self-generated renewable power, EvoEnergy provided the tailor-made solution.

As part of what is now one of the largest roof mounted solar farms in the UK, 11,500 260kw solar PV panels have been installed on top of the German firm’s MINI production plant in Oxford, UK. The 3MW array, which covers 20,000 square metres, is now generating as much clean, green energy as is needed to power 850 homes - supplying power to the recently opened body shop production line where more than 1,000 robots are in operation building new MINI hatchback cars.

The sheer size of the job and the tight schedule involved presented EvoEnergy with big challenges to overcome from the very start. The company’s project team had just a week and a half to mobilise and prepare ahead of the start date. Detailed site surveys were required, management and construction plans had to be drawn up and materials which often require long lead times had to be ordered and delivered from third-party suppliers at short notice. Thankfully, work began on time in February and was completed -- ahead of schedule -- before the  end of May.

At least a dozen installers were on site every day over the three months to ensure that each project deadline was met. They made sure that the first MW -- around 4,000 panels -- was fitted and up and running in just five weeks, two weeks faster than normal. More importantly, installers had to ensure that the roof was not overloaded by some many panels.

“We knew it could be done, but it required a construction method far removed from your standard domestic or commercial installation," said Michael Salisbruy, EvoEnergy's projects director. "We opted for 24,000 aerodynamic solion frames, which interlock like building blocks underneath the PV, to provide the ballast-free solution that was needed. Now fully tested by DNA and the FSE, BMW’s finished array is a prime example of a business making good use of a space (which was previously left empty) for the benefit of their operations and the environment.”

The BMW plant was one of the first businesses to sign up to the Low Carbon Oxford Charter, an agreement which aims to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 30% by 2020. The site’s solar array is its latest environmental addition after LED lights and water harvesting, and was launched during the inaugural ‘Low Carbon Oxford Week’.

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Solar electricity