Air Handlers Northern (AHN) approached the Green Economy team in November 2022 for support souring a solar installation partner for part of their decarbonisation and energy efficiency strategy. As manufacturers, AHN were keen to improve the energy efficiency measures within their operation while reducing their reliance on the grid.  

Introductions sped up the learning process 

After establishing AHN’s project requirements, Priya Sirpal, Green Economy Business Advisor, shared an expression of interest with Green Economy’s membership, comprised of green technologies and services firms. Priya arranged face-to-face introductions and consultations with three organisations who specialise in solar installation; of those three, Mark Higgitt, commercial director at AHN, decided that KAST Renewable Energy were the best fit.  
 
“We’ve been a member of Green Economy for a number of years,” explains Stephen Dootson, commercial director of KAST. “Because we’re a part of their Marketplace we get notifications about sales opportunities, and we saw a good opportunity with AHN. We applied, were introduced and shortlisted, and moved on to the feasibility study.”  
 
“Being introduced to the experts directly and in-person sped up the learning process and sharing of knowledge,” said Mark as we visited AHN’s Salford warehouse a few weeks after the installation to gather their views on how the project had gone.  
 
“I felt the introduction process was excellent,” he added. “I would advise any organisation considering a solar partnership to ensure that both the supplier and end user have a clear idea on timescales, deadlines, processes, and what needs to be done and why. Defining payback periods is also important. This builds a much clearer project specification.”  

Businesses interested in decarbonising aren't always sure who the right supplier is for their needs. We can make the necessary introductions to a range of green technology suppliers who'll consult with you on the process behind your project and ensure you know what to expect and how to move forward.

Priya Sirpal, Green Tech Consultant, Green Economy

Feasibility  

“The feasibility study is a site survey designed to and find out what their processes and drivers are and what they want to achieve,” says Kes Scott, managing director of KAST. “A lot of that was confirmed by Priya at Green Economy; we followed on from that to ensure we had all the data we needed for our own study.”  
 
KAST used AHN’s monthly energy bills and half-hourly data to track energy demand and decide on the most effective green tech solution for AHN. 
 
“We realised we could install a 60kW solar system on their roof and reduce their reliance on the grid by almost 50 per cent,” Kes added. “The payback was initially indicated at around two or two and a half years. This could save roughly 12 tonnes of CO2 per annum.”  
 
Once the strategy was agreed with AHN, KAST applied for permission to connect from the Distribution Network Operator (DNO), a process which takes a day internally, but up to six weeks externally. In terms of timescale interruptions, this process is a common hurdle for solar installations.  

Priya Sirpal

Priya Sirpal, Green Tech Consultant, Green Economy

Ahn Solar Roof

The solar installation at AHN's Salford warehouse.

Education is a large hurdle for businesses 

Once AHN’s 60kW system was fully operational, maintenance became a key focus.  
 
“You get your car serviced and take it for an MOT, why not do the same for solar?” said Kes. Properly maintaining your solar PV can extend its lifetime, improve efficiency, prevent staining and structural damage, and save costs.  
 
“We identified that Air Handlers are in quite a dirty air area,” Stephen explained. “We spoke about what they can do to keep the integrity of the system given their environment. It’s important for organisations to understand that steps can be taken to ensure green technology is a viable business option even if the environment doesn’t appear immediately accommodating.”  

Education is a large hurdle. Businesses need to know and understand how to effectively take on green technologies, and how they can be used to improve their operations and green credentials.

Kes Scott, managing director, KAST

AHN now have the tools in place to monitor energy generated by their solar system, identify any potential issues, and improve their energy efficiency.  
 
Reflecting on the experience, Mark is happy with the impact the new solar system is having and considers the experience to have been a positive one. As for his advice to other organisations considering investing in solar, Mark recommends “specifying timeframes so suppliers and end users have a clear idea as to when certain steps will be taking place and when their system will be fully operational. The difficult part of this project was getting the DNO and export license approved, once they were sorted it was a smooth process.” 


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