Associated British Ports – ABP is the UK’s leading port operator, with a unique network of 21 ports across England, Scotland, and Wales. Their ports include Immingham, the UKs busiest port, and Southampton, the nation’s second-largest and most efficient container port, as well as the UK’s number one for cars and cruise. In 2016 ABP and its customers handled 89 million tonnes of cargo. They support 119,000 jobs and contribute £7.5 billion to the UK economy every year.
ABP has a company-wide policy to deliver renewable technology across all operational ports to reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption. This record-breaking project saw the installation of a 6.5MWp solar system, utilising 21,000 solar panels across the rooftops of major terminal buildings at the Port of Hull including the All-Weather terminal. The system will generate enough electricity during peak generation periods to run the Port of Hull solely from clean energy. 17 of ABP’s 21 ports now have renewable energy projects attached. The addition of the solar scheme in Hull means the Humber Ports can produce 29% of its energy requirements.
Throughout the installation of this solar project, the UK’s largest rooftop solar installation, Custom Solar had to follow the COVID-19 guidelines put in place by the government, however Custom Solar was determined to deliver a successful large-scale solar installation.
Due to the scale of Shed 16 being 350 meters long, DC cables had to be placed in specified separation bundles to prevent overheating, allowance for cable voltage drops, in inverter utilisation factor, and special consideration was put in place to the economic balance of cable size to cable losses. A permanent roof pathway was installed to prevent surface damage from the repeated path walks required to install over 10,000 panels.
Connecting a system of this size to the grid required a long process of communication and information sharing with Northern Powergrid. Custom Solar was conducted simulation studies to demonstrate compliance with energy flow and harmonics, including the design of a failsafe export-limiting solution to ensure no power flowed back to the grid. On account of zero export to the grid requirement, over 4km of fibre optic cables were run across the site to allow communication between inverters and the meter at the connection point.
HV network upgrades were planned and installed in collaboration with the client. Furthermore, a DC grid injection was identified on existing crane equipment and so safety precautions were put in place.
After months in planning Custom Solar was appointed the project in September 2019, with Associated British Ports investing 6.8 million pounds into the UK’s largest rooftop solar installation!
Simon Bird, Director at ABP Humber, said: “This has been a huge project for ABP and our contractor Custom Solar to undertake. I’m delighted that the Port of Hull now holds the accolade of the UK’s largest, commercial rooftop array. Our ambition is to keep reducing the emissions that port operations generate, by implementing a mix of clean energy production and investing further in hybridized port equipment. Every bit of effort and investment to lower our carbon footprint contributes to the region’s environmental targets. This scheme and others like it, also help to secure ABP’s energy supply, making great commercial and environmental sense.”
Custom Solar began installing the 21,000 solar panels in October 2019, which was completed in August 2020. The team was able to quickly adapt to COVID-19 working requirements, due to established working practices already being socially distanced in Custom Solar’s nature, and the implementation of COVID secure welfare facilities.
Matt Brailsford, Managing Director at Custom Solar, said: “It’s another proud moment for the Custom Solar team and our client Associated British Ports as we deliver yet another iconic rooftop solar system, obviously this one is in a very special bracket all on its own being the UK’s largest.
The project was in planning for nearly two years before beginning construction due to the sheer complexity of the system we delivered, this is yet another reason why the system is incredibly unique and bespoke to the client’s needs and environment.
With carbon reduction, CSR, and keen financial savings on the agenda of all large corporations during such a challenging time we see solar as the perfect fit.”
It will produce enough electricity (5,501,326 kWh per annum) to power around 1570 residential homes per year or power 2300 electric cars, a carbon reduction of 2915 tonnes of CO2 which is the equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of 1457 fossil fuel cars!
Custom Solar operates and maintains all of the systems across the port providing live monitoring via our bespoke monitoring solution, full reactive maintenance, and annual scheduled service visits.