Thin Film and AZUR 2P coatings – IKEA and The Body Shop go solar!

Ikea and The Body Shop are amongst the big brands leading the way for solar PV in the UK. But there are many ways to juice up your building and these are two examples of very different methods.

Ikea has decided to go down the thin-film road for installations on ten of its UK stores. The £4million investment comprises 39,000 panels supplied by GS-Solar UK, a subsidiary of GS-Solar (Fujian) Co., based in Quanzhou, China. These panels, due to be installed by March 2012 in order to qualify for the highest Feed in Tariff rate, will cover an area of 31,000m2 and provide, on average, 5% of each store’s electricity requirements. These installation will generate around 1,600,000 kWh per year, or enough electricity for just under 500 homes. The stores fitted so far include Milton Keynes, Edmonton, Warrington and Southampton. The reason given for choosing thin film is primarily financial as thin film can be cheaper per installed Watt than more traditional mono or poly-crystalline PV panel and can be more suitable for the UK climate as they perform well in cloudy condition. Thin-film also has the lowest embodied energy which is important from an environmental/CO2 emission point of view.  With these UK solar installations, Ikea are adding to their worldwide commitment to renewables with major projects already completed in the US (573kW in Sacramento, California) and in Germany (449,000kWh and 149,000kWh in Regensburg and Freiburgrespectively).

By contrast, the Body Shop chose to use over 3,800 AZUR 2P modules to create an 883kWp solar photovoltaic energy system from AZUR SOLAR at their head officesin Littlehampton, West Sussex, and in doing so built the UK’s largest commercial on-roof Solar PV solution to date. One of the main reasons to select these panels is the unique “2P” coating. Whilst they come at a premium, they are virtually free of degradation and can produce around 15% more lifetime power. Whereas most rival panels see a steady drop off in performance, AZUR 2P panels offer the impressive guaranteed of 98% efficiency after 20 years (compare to a typical 80% efficiency after 20 years for crystalline technologies). It’s encouraging to see The Body Shop International, well known for its rigorous ethical standards and code of conduct, taking the lead in sustainable development as well.

At Solarjuice we are often asked which technology is better. The answer will depend on the situation for example whether you want to maximise energy production, CO2 savings or financial returns. Other consideration include the available roof space as thin film panels require a large area due to their low W/m2 (around half of crystalline PV). Other factors include panel orientation, local shadowing, aesthetics and the overall budget. The Body Shop had a specific energy reduction target that would be difficult to achieve by using thin film alone as Bill Hughes, international environment, health & safety director for The Body Shop explains:

“The installation of our own environmentally friendly solar PV solution using AZUR SOLAR manufactured and installed modules is an important part of our plan to reduce our CO2 emissions from the site by 50%, by 2015.  We have a long history of working to protect our planet and this project is a significant investment in our programme of initiatives to improve the environment. This approach remains true to our original values; by producing our own clean energy we not only secure a sound economic and environmental future for the business but we also confirm our commitment to reducing our CO2 emissions.”

Ikea on the other hand, is dealing with multiple site in the UK alone and made a commercial judgment that favoured thin film for their particular case.

Solarjuice believes that regardless of the technology both Ikea and The Body Shop made the a great decision to invest in the Feed-In Tariffs now and benefit no doubt from the goodwill generated by the positive publicity surrounding their environmental strategy.

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Category: Buildings and PV, Feed-in Tariff, PV Panels | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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