SunGift Energy has today crane-lifted the first solar panels onto the roof of Exeter City Council’s Mary Arches car park. It is believed to be the first solar installer in the UK carry out such an installation on the roof of a multi-story car park.

The start of work is particularly significant as it is the most technologically complex solar solution that SunGift has carried out to-date, with the company’s experts solving a number of technical challenges before the project could be started.

Exeter City Council awarded the contract to Devon-based SunGift, which is the current UK Solar Installer of the Year*, following a competitive tender (against local regional and national companies) and bespoke design work by SunGift’s specialists.

The first panels were lifted by crane onto the Mary Arches car park roofs today and work has started on erecting the frames for the carports. Once the frames are completed, the 540+ solar panels will then be installed. More will then be lifted onto the roof of the John Lewis car park. Previously, cars that parked on the top levels were ‘out in the open’, but when the work is completed they will be covered by solar panels, which will generate 285,227 kWh per year of free electricity and save more than 150 tonnes of CO2.

“Solar car ports in a situation of this complexity have never been done before in the UK,” said solar specialist Gareth Walton from SunGift Energy, “and it’s an exciting move for both us and Exeter City Council. The top floors of the car parks are perfectly placed for making the most of the sun’s free energy, as we’ve been able to optimize the angles of the solar panels on the car park deck. This means that the panels will generate the maximum amount of energy, while providing a benefit to the car parks. It is a great example of where solar can be used to deliver dual benefits and it’s also an indication of where the industry is heading.”

Detailed planning and designing of the system has been critically important, with specialist mounting equipment being designed and used to ensure the structural integrity of the car parks.

“This project allowed us to do what we do best – use our years of knowledge and experience working on specialist projects to produce a bespoke system that meets the requirements of both the customer and the site,” added Gareth. “While the roofs of multi story car parks are the perfect location for solar, there are also many potential problems, so it requires an extremely high level of technical expertise.”

The project is another high-profile contract for SunGift Energy, which has been at the forefront of the solar PV industry over the past few years. In recent years the company has had a number of first including:

  1. Being chosen by the Met Office to design and install a solar system on its energy centre roof (helping power the supercomputer that runs research into climate change)
  2. Bringing many of the world’s top panels to the UK market including the world’s highest efficiency panels (BenQ 330 W panels)
  3. Developing its own 45 kW ‘test array’ for solar panels and inverters at the company’s Exeter HQ
  4. Introducing battery storage technologies so that homeowners can generate renewable energy and use it at any time of day or night

SunGift has previously carried out other solar installations on Exeter City Council buildings including the Civic Centre, Oakwood House offices, Materials Reclamation Facility, the ARK (the Museum’s storage facility) and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM).

“We’re thrilled to be working with Exeter City Council again,” added Gareth, “They’ve shown time and again that they are ahead of the game when it comes to introducing innovative renewable energy projects that will save the public purse huge amounts of money.”

The carport project will use SolarEdge inverters, which will help maximize the power that the solar panels generate and the income that the council receives from the Feed-in Tariff.