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JT HAWKES - Birmingham Firm Fits Out UK's Largest Solar Farm

Birmingham electrical services contractor JT Hawkes has brought renewable energy to 1,500 homes in Oxfordshire by fitting out Britain's largest solar power plant.

The environmental specialist worked against the clock to design, install and commission the electricity plant for Westmill Solar Farm at Swindon in only six weeks.

JT Hawkes's efforts enabled the farm to go live before August 1 when Government changes to 'feed-in tariff' legislation took effect(*).

The five-megawatt solar power plant has resulted in Britain's first combined 'green energy zone', with the farm already generating electricity through five wind turbines.
Combined energy output will be sufficient to power more than 40,000 homes for at least the next 25 years.

JT Hawkes, based in Witton, worked with German photovoltaic panel supplier Abakus on the £12 million solar farm for clients Blue Energy from Alderley Edge and Low Carbon Solar from Cirencester in installing almost 23,000 state-of-the-art PV solar plates covering 30 acres of land.

Harvesting daylight with no waste and no emissions, the panels have been mounted at a height of three metres on 68 kilometres of steel and are expected to feed almost five gigawatts of renewable electricity a year into the national grid – an output equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 1,500 homes.

J T Hawkes designed and installed the entire power distribution network, which included the building of trenches for 184,000 metres of solar cable and 32-kilovolt power cabling.

The brief also involved fitting inverters to convert the electricity from direct to alternating current for feeding into the national grid via two electricity substations.

Mark Wells, Head of Design & Delivery for Low Carbon Solar, said: “This project has been delivered at record speed and with challenges both large and small but a constant throughout has been the support of JT Hawkes.”

Mark Edworthy, Commercial Director for Blue Energy, added: “We were delighted with the dedication, efficiency and teamwork demonstrated by the JT Hawkes team. They ensured that the project was delivered under extreme time pressure.”

John Hawkes, Managing Director of the company he set up in 1978, said: “Our engineers rose to the challenge of using the latest technology to complete Britain's largest solar power plant - and worked round the clock to get it finished in such a short period of time. We are delighted to be part of such a landmark scheme.”

Local people will have the opportunity to take ownership of the farm later this year when shares are offered by the recently formed Westmill Solar Co-operative.

(*) The 'feed-in tariff' rate changed from 30.7p to 8.5p per kilowatt-hour for all new solar installations completed after August 1.

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