The solar revolution will help our Industrial & Logistics spaces shine

In his recent article on sustainability, our MD Ed Hutchinson reflected how we’re reducing HBD’s carbon footprint – be that through new construction processes or looking at ways in which people living and working in our HBD places can operate sustainably in the future.

This article focuses our colleague Dan Lawrenson focuses on one major initiative within our I&L developments, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels explaining how these can help the environment – and the bottom line.

We’ve invested a lot at HBD in recent years, not just to meet ESG targets, but to exceed them – ensuring that our HBD places are truly sustainable.

This year, I took on a project specifically looking at how PV panels can help us in this endeavour, evolving a blueprint that would allow us to cover our roof spaces with more than the minimum requirement.

Our plan? To fit the maximum number of PV panels to our buildings at every opportunity, a decision which will not only have a huge environmental benefit but one that will also help to establish a new revenue stream.

Our plan in action

We opted to use Rainham in London as the case study model in this project. Rainham, which HBD is developing in partnership with Barings, is raising the bar with its green credentials, so seemed the perfect place to try something new. The scheme will complete early in 2024, bringing with it new ideas and targeting Net Zero carbon enabled in operation, an A+ EPC rating, a BREEAM Excellent rating and net zero carbon in construction.

But it is the volume of PV panels that will stand out here. Many buildings tend to only feature PV panels across about 5-10% of their roof space, the minimum requirement to comply with building regulations, however we will be covering the close to 75% of the roof to self-generate as much electricity as possible for our occupiers.

There are many benefits in doing so. For most occupiers it’s the appeal of cheaper energy and of course meeting their own ESG objectives whilst knowing that their operations are running in an energy efficient way. But there are also commercial benefits to be had from the sheer amount of electricity that can be generated – Rainham for example will have the capacity to charge every one of the site’s 57 EV car charging spaces using PV-generated electricity.

Our ability to achieve this is underpinned by the depth of our research – something that has seen us model various scenarios and develop a blueprint that has environmental and commercial credentials. Working with our M&E engineers, Anderson Green, we assessed exactly what power would be needed for each building to operate by 100% self-generated electric. We then worked with other consultants, Low Carbon Alliance, to determine exactly what PV coverage each building needed to ensure it was 100% capable of operating off its own solar power supply.

The green economy in action

This PV strategy isn’t just an eco-friendly choice; it’s a strategic move towards securing additional revenue, generating clean, renewable energy and capitalising on a new income stream.

During our research we explored many ways of doing this, ultimately deciding on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) – agreements that will allow HBD to sell the power generated by PV roof panels directly to the occupier at a rate discounted from the energy wholesale price. This not only contributes to a sustainable energy ecosystem but also creates a dependable revenue source.

The process of course hasn’t been without its challenges, and we know that all pioneers are taking big risks in the pursuit of addressing climate change. Throughout our research we’ve assessed various concerns; understanding and keeping on top of new technologies, maintenance costs, regulation, and the imperative point of performance – our occupiers need reliable energy output from PV panels, so much of our research has gone into mitigating external factors like weather conditions.

We also of course need to be wary of market conditions and energy pricing, and of course the overriding fear of occupiers not using the green energy available to them.

A green future

Each of these challenges though in no way outweighed the benefits that solar energy will bring to our HBD places, and as we peer into the future, our vision extends way beyond our schemes currently under construction.

We are already exploring the possibility of having maximum PV on the roof of   Skelmersdale 245. This scheme will provide 245,000 sq ft of industrial and logistics space on a 12-acre plot, and will incorporate practices that resonate with the UK’s industrial landscape.

All the research we’ve done – much of which is now becoming a reality in Rainham – leads us to believe that the integration of PV panels on industrial buildings is a key step on our pioneering journey towards a greener, more sustainable tomorrow.

As the sun rises on this solar revolution, our HBD places are set to shine brighter than ever before.