Central Bedfordshire Council has installed solar panels directly onto the road surface of their Thorn Turn highways depot car park to light, heat and power the depot.
The panels, which have been laid in partnership with infrastructure contractor Colas Ltd, can generate up to 17,400kW of electricity an hour. This would provide enough energy for around five houses a year.
Vehicles will still be able to drive directly on the panels, in the same way as a regular road surface, with the panels generating power through sunlight at the same time.
This will reduce CO2 emissions, helping the council to reduce its carbon footprint and support the council’s aim for the depot to be run completely on renewable energy. It’s one example of how the council is working towards becoming net zero by 2030 as detailed in the Sustainability Plan.
This is the third ADEPT Live Labs trial, where the council is piloting three renewable energy projects, as part of the £22.9 million ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs Programme. The three schemes focus on capturing and reusing solar, kinetic and thermal energy, and were secured following a successful £1.05 million bid made to the Department for Transport.
This solar car park follows the successful thermal energy trial also at Thorn Turn car park where the council installed five geothermic probes that extend 150 metres into the ground. The geothermic probes respond when the temperature drops to freezing by using the thermal energy to de-ice the car park. This enables vehicles to continue operating and saves money on gritting salt. The heat is contained in an on-site geothermal storage unit and can also be used to heat the depot, saving on energy bill costs.
Councillor Steven Dixon, Executive Member for Sustainability and Transformation at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “I am delighted we're part of this exciting and innovative trial. The green energy created using the panels will be stored, with the intention of using it to power our highways depot.
“Having seen the installation, I am really looking forward to seeing how this solar trial will work. Our aim is to run the depot purely on renewable energy, this will help save on our energy bills and make our building more sustainable.
“Our next step – along with Cranfield University – will be looking at the results of the three trials to consider how we could branch out further across other parts of Central Bedfordshire and into our other buildings. We are committed to doing our bit for the planet.”