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Case Studies

Agricultural College

The Project

Gelli Aur is the agricultural campus of Sir Gar College in Camarthenshire, bringing students together to learn about modern farming techniques on the 211 hectare farm. With renewable energy being a natural extension to most modern farms, the farm manager John Owen was keen to introduce solar technology to the dairy business. Nearly 40 companies tendered for the opportunity to install 50kW of solar PV on the dairy building, TGE Group was chosen, being highly experienced in farm installations and being able to offer an integrated approach to energy generation and efficiency.

The Solution

The 50kW installation was designed for the main dairy unit roof with 204 Suntech polycrystalline panels installed on a Tritec mounting system linked to three SMA inverters. The work was scheduled outside milking times where possible to minimise disruption.  Safety netting and scaffolding were used to ensure all health and safety and animal welfare requirements were met.

The design of the system had to meet three important criteria:

  • enable students to learn and interact with the system
  • maximise on-site use of generated energy
  • improve overall farm efficiency

To promote interaction with students, the three inverters were mounted on the external wall of the dairy unit rather than hidden out of sight, along with a demonstration solar panel mounted at ground level.  An LED display in the reception disseminated performance data to students and visitors alike.  A web enabled data logger provides continuous monitoring and alerts should performance levels drop.

To maximise on-site use of the electricity generated the design team at TGE Group focussed on minimising the level of exported energy. Load diverters will ensure that any export energy will be diverted to the immersion for pre-heating wash-down water in the dairy, reducing reliance on grid power. The dairy also uses the ice bank, used for chilling milk, to store electricity by building up ice during the day. “We previously did this overnight using the night tariff,” explained Gelli Aur campus farm manager John Owen, “but this is a more efficient way of using and storing our solar generated electricity.

Gelli Aur is home to the Dairy Development Centre which focuses on the development of the Welsh dairy industry providing market information and specialist advice to improve efficiency. “With monitoring and continual analysis, this installation has an academic research side which will help other dairy farms increase their efficiency. The aim is to use all the energy so subsequent savings can be made. In fact, savings from using all the energy could potentially be similar to the income raised through the Feed-in Tariff due to the compounding effect of rising energy prices,” commented Rhys Morgan, business development manager for The Green Electrician Group.

Energy Saving

The 50kWp Solar PV system will generate around 42MW of electricity each year. The installation was EPC exempt and will save 22.8 tonnes of CO2 each year.