In little over three years, Exmouth’s Liverton Solar Park has generated a massive 20 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity – enough energy to boil 133 million kettles, power 28 million showers, or for 1,522 years of television.
The major milestone was achieved on August 31st, 2018 following a record-breaking year for renewable energy in Britain according to the National Grid. Since its establishment in March 2015 the park has provided low-carbon electricity to more than 1,200 homes a year in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton as well as to Liverton Business Park.
Landowner Clinton Devon Estates built the park, located on the outskirts of the business complex, to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the local area; the more energy is generated from the sun, the less coal, gas and oil are needed to produce electricity.
The electricity is fed into the local distribution network and with the average UK household using 3,900kWh of electricity a year, Liverton is generating the equivalent amount of electricity consumed by around six per cent of the 20,600 households in and around Exmouth.
“The park is generating significant amounts of electricity for local consumption, which was our objective all along,” said John Wilding, Head of Forestry and Environmental Economy for Clinton Devon Estates. “Hitting this milestone signifies that we are fulfilling what we set out to achieve when the plans were being drawn up.”
The electricity generated at the park has contributed to a record-breaking year for the renewable energy sector, with Britain generating more electricity from renewable and nuclear energy in 2017 than from gas and coal, with 2018 on course to be the “greenest” ever.
Mr Wilding continued: “This huge milestone is a significant marker in our ongoing effort to help reduce Exmouth’s carbon footprint and contribute to the nation’s renewable energy generation, which has increased so much during the summer months, that power stations using fossil fuels are being switched off. The majority of the country’s power stations used to be located in the coal fields of the north, but there is a certain amount of energy which is lost through its transmission, so decentralised renewable energy generation, whereby solar parks like Liverton power their local areas, is a more energy efficient and sustainable way to power the country.”
Mr Wilding explained that despite this summer’s prolonged heatwave and numerous sunny days, the park is in line with energy production compared with this time last year because of the long winter.
Throughout March, when the area was blanketed in snow, and April, when the region was awash with rain, the park was 15 per cent below its target production, known as the budget. However, the recent spell of sunny days has brought the budget back on track in time for this autumn’s 20 million kWh (20 megawatt hours) milestone.
The 25-acre park is also becoming a nature reserve. The grass is evolving naturally into a wildflower meadow, increasing the area’s biodiversity with the number of species increasing year-on-year. The hope is that school visits will be possible in the future as a way of engaging the local younger generation with the role solar parks play locally, and globally as they contribute to combating global warming.
With over 23,000 panels producing 5,900MWh annually and 130km of wires, peak performance is achieved through programmed maintenance, including occasional cleaning and 24-hour monitoring.
“As an organisation, we aim to look after the land in our care, as well as investing for our future and the future of the people who live and work on the Estate,” added Mr Wilding.
Clinton Devon Estates was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of sustainable development in 2005, 2010 and again in 2015.