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Solar panels secure jobs at Trago Mills

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 14, 2013

solar: Jeremy Christophers and Bruce Robertson at Trago

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JOB security has been assured at a South Devon family shopping and leisure park following the installation of a huge solar panel system.

Trago Mills, near Newton Abbot, has switched on its photovoltaic array which, it says, is the largest, single roof-mounted solar panel network in northern Europe.

The project comprises an investment of more than £2million.

The 3,754 panels will generate 778,862kWh of power to the store with any excess energy going direct to the national grid to supply the local area.

In the summer months, all 110 acres of the site will be totally powered by solar energy.

It is expected the system will halve the store's annual electricity bill of £266,000.

Trago Mills group chairman Bruce Robertson said it would take seven years to make a return on the investment.

He said: "To have energy security on site for the future is tantamount to business security and that means we can guarantee the security of the jobs on the site which is a big issue these days."

Trago employs 450 people at its Newton Abbot store and there are also almost 150 'trading partners' operating their own businesses on the site.

The panels, which took just under one month to install, cover every available space on the roof that is strong enough and unaffected by shade — but they cannot be seen from ground level.

Mr Robertson said: "We set great store by our architectural theme of neo-gothic meets Disney, and the great virtue of this installation is unless you were told it was there, you would never know."

Mr Robertson said there would be a public screen displaying the yield, which would encourage other people to consider renewable energy.

The 93-ton photovoltaic array was switched on by Teignbridge Council leader Jeremy Christophers, who said: "Any scheme generating heat without reliance on fossil fuels means future generations will have options available.

"This scheme is leading the way."

The installation was carried out by Devon Eco Energy, one of the 'trading partners' on the Trago campus.

Director Steve Frost said this was the biggest project the 14-month-old company has carried out so far.

He said: "This project has enabled us to take on a lot more staff. We had 10 and now we have 45 full-time and part-time staff.

"It gave us the springboard we needed to take on other challenges.

"We're currently working to install similar but smaller solar panel arrays on the Trago sites in Liskeard and Falmouth."

The panels, which are guaranteed for 25 years, were manufactured in Germany by Europe's largest manufacturer of photovoltaics, SolarWorld.

The company's UK brand development and country manager Scott McDaniel said: "Trago is a recognisable company in the area and it's outstanding for us to be involved with this prestigious site. We regard this is as our flagship commercial project."

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