Solar so good
Renewables at Worthy Farm, home of the Glastonbury festival
11-09-2010 | Few farmers can claim to be in the vanguard of solar energy in the UK. Fewer still have performed on stage with Stevie Wonder and been named by Time magazine as among the world's top 100 most influential people. But as founder of the world's biggest performing arts festival, and proud owner of the UK's largest solar roof, Michael Eavis has a habit of doing things differently, and on a grand scale.
As the man behind the Glastonbury festival, Michael Eavis isn't afraid of breaking new ground. For a few days each year, his farm is transformed to the music capital of the world, as 150,000 revellers descend on the village of Pilton in Somerset. Marking its fortieth birthday this year, the celebration of music, arts and environmentalism has become the inspiration for music festivals around the globe.
Now Michael's become a pioneer of a different kind, as owner of the UK's largest solar roof. The solar array - a collection of 1,112 interlinked photovoltaic panels - has just been installed on the roof of the Mootel, the barn where the dairy farm's cows spend the festival period. While there's no guarantee of sunshine for the festival itself, the solar array promises to generate 160,000 kWh per year, the equivalent of the energy used by 40 homes. The barn was specially designed to take the extra weight of the panels, which cover 1,500 square metres and weigh around 22.5 tonnes.
A ray of light
"We have bought all the recycled fat from chip shops that we can find to run the generators during the festival and we wanted to create a permanent source of renewable energy. It makes sense to use some of the massive amount of free energy that comes from the sun," says Michael. "I have been planning to install a solar array for a number of years, and even prepared the barn roof well in advance. It makes sense to forge ahead with the project now the feed-in tariffs have kicked in."
The photovoltaic (PV) panels cost a total of £550,000. This is the first major solar installation supported by Triodos in the UK and one of 85 we finance internationally. The solar array was installed by another Triodos customer, SolarSense UK, with solar panels manufactured by County Durham-based ROMAG.
Fit for purpose
The Worthy Farm project is one of the first to benefit from the government's new feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards individuals and organisations for developing sources of renewable energy generation. Michael Eavis expects the installation to pay back more than £45,000 per year, in addition to the savings derived through the farm's own use - expected to be around 80 per cent of the energy generated.
While the government incentive has made the solar project financially more attractive, it's something Michael has been keen to do for some time to help make the festival as green as it can be. "We will benefit from this. But when it starts generating a profit, I will spend all that money on more solar energy, so it will be a good investment for the nation," says Michael. "Because we share the same values, Triodos Bank was my first consideration for the loan and I am grateful it is able to help fi nance the scheme and invest in the potential of solar for future energy generation."
Born in 1935, Michael Eavis CBE, is an English dairy farmer and founder of the world's largest performing arts festival, Glastonbury, which takes place on his Somerset based worthy farm in June each year. Last year, the Glastonbury festival celebrated its 40th anniversary, and in 2009, Eavis was named by time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.