Toyota’s Big Solar Switch-on in the United Kingdom

Toyota and British Gas threw the switch to launch a UK industry-leading initiative in sustainable energy generation at Toyota Motor Manufacturing United Kingdom (TMUK) this week.

Covering 90,000m2 of industrial land with the TMUK Burnaston site, the new solar power system is the largest installed by any vehicle manufacturer in the UK.  The "array" of about 17,000 solar panels has the capacity to save 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the complex each year, and realise an energy saving equivalent to 4.6 million kWh – roughly the power needed to build 7,000 cars a year.

The project adds to the plant’s impressive environmental profile as one of Toyota’s five standard-bearing worldwide “eco-factories”. Notably, TMUK in Burnaston, Derbyshire, is also the production centre for the Toyota Auris full hybrid, the first volume production full hybrid car to be built in Europe.

The solar power system is complimented by a range of showcase energy saving features that have been introduced around Burnaston’s manufacturing shops. These include a ‘brise soleil’, which is a sunshade of solar panels fitted above the windows, and a wall of solar glass to replace existing windows. The solar panels in the main array cost more than € 11.4 million (£10 million) and are all British-manufactured.

They were installed and paid for by British Gas, which is claiming the feed-in tariff – a UK Government scheme designed to improve the up-take up of solar power generation systems, under which owners are paid for the renewable electricity they produce.

TMUK, which operates the Burnaston facility, will benefit from the free renewable electricity generated. Tony Walker, TMUK Deputy Managing Director, said: “The launch of the new solar array marks a further significant step in our journey towards low carbon and sustainable manufacturing. This development is a key part of our 'sustainable plant' vision in which our production facilities are designed to work in harmony with our local community and surrounding environment. Our aim is to be a true eco plant producing eco cars built by eco-minded people.”

Colin MacDonald, Head of Microgeneration at British Gas, said: “This new solar array – one of the biggest in the UK – demonstrates how an energy intensive industry like manufacturing can lead the way to a low carbon future. As well as improving Derbyshire’s green credentials, we hope it will act as a beacon for other homes and businesses throughout the county to think about renewable energy.”

Frank McArdle, Chief Executive of South Derbyshire District Council, Burnaston’s local planning authority, said: “Toyota has clearly invested for the future with the installation of these solar panels. This in itself is a sign of the confidence it has in its plant in Burnaston and puts this area at the cutting edge of green technology.”

TMUK has a fine record of environmental leadership. It was the first UK car manufacturer to be awarded the international ISO 14001 standard for environmental management in 1996, and the first to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill to zero in 2002. In 2008 it went further achieving zero waste to incineration.