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Business: CorEnergy
Services: Renewable technologies
Markets: Education
Sustainability: Sustainability,
Client: York St Johns University
Date: 17/01/2024

York St John University


Higher education




sarah williams
Sustainabilty manager

This project was to install and maintain roof-mounted PV at 5 city-centre University sites and separate solar carports with an associated 312 kWh commercial-scale battery. We were appointed by the University following a competitive tender process. CorEnergy had responsibility from initial concept and feasibility assessments, through each stage of design and build, before transitioning the finished system to our maintenance teams.

Our in-house team undertook feasibility assessments. Originally, the project was generation only until our feasibility study demonstrated the enhanced return on investment offered by a battery. The project was dependent on supporting the University with a successful bid for grant funding through the Public Sector Decarbonation Scheme. Our stakeholder management needed to account for the needs of the University and the expectations of Salix to release funding. The bid involved detailed carbon impact assessments, energy profile optimisation reviews and engineering FEED studies.

Once funding was secured, our in-house PV design team were responsible for the specification of all the systems’ elements. Our team are well used to the challenges of installing solar PV and battery systems, but the carport element required close risk management. The University’s specification called for a minimum 25-year permanent structure, with foundations, civil works, design liability, containment, ducting, structure works, fabrication and aftercare support.

The carports were designed by our in-house team to meet all requirements. Multiple Stakeholders had to be managed. This included obtaining DNO approval via a G99 application process. Mitigation measures were used to address DNO concerns where possible, and we managed the residual contestable and non-contestable works.

We then had to obtain civil and structural sign-off of our design. Engineering checks and assessments, including concrete cube testing for civil engineering validation prior to commencing structural works. The system was engineered to withstand a minor vehicle impact (<10 MPH) and incorporated water management to comply with Local Planning Authority land soak-away requirements.

Even with this in place, delivering the entire scope of works within a strict deadline imposed by Salix was a risk. CorEnergy only had 9 months to:

  • Design the systems, including the fabrication of bespoke solar carports
  • Achieve planning permission
  • Procure the materials
  • Install all systems
  • Successfully commission all elements of the project

This timeframe left no room for error. CorEnergy and the University worked together closely - all critical path items were clearly identified with defined target dates. This information was inputted into a Microsoft Project Gantt chart and then used to monitor progress. Reports were sent weekly to the client and then discussed at review meetings. This partnership approach proved vital to ensuring the overall success of the project.

Site CDM responsibilities included site security, welfare facilities, and temporary lighting. Safety inductions were carried out for staff, contractors and visitors. Fixed scaffolding and working at height method statements, including full TG20 designs, were enforced throughout works. Regular health and safety audits were conducted. Our team coordinated project programming of resources, review meetings, and coordination of all installation interface points.

Lifting materials to roofs is always a key project risk. This was complicated by work being on occupied buildings, as high as seven storeys, in city-centre locations. Structural risk assessments determined the roof loading plan, suitable at-height storage areas, and mitigations for adverse weather during the installations. A communications plan informed affected stakeholders of restrictions, which included street closures, building closures, and relocation requirements. Advanced consultation and emails were supported by clear notices and signage. Additional operatives were posted at ground level to warn people away from the area during lifts.

The project was successfully commissioned within the agreed deadline and budget. Salix’s funding requirements were met, fulfilling the key project dependency. We delivered full training on the systems to the different buildings’ facilities management teams for the systems they control, supported by written documentation.

Once works completed, the installed systems were supported by a maintenance programme. This was loaded into our CRM system, Pipedrive, to prompt the work of our Aftercare department. Our teams currently deliver:

  • Monthly remote panel-by-panel Solar PV and battery performance assessment.
  • Quarterly written system reports covering inverter and generation performance and any issues that require on-site investigation.
  • Annual checks of the battery container’s fire suppression and HVAC system.
  • Annual physical inspection of Solar PV system, including:
  1. Assessment of modules, inverter, and cables for signs of damage or corrosion with repairs made if necessary.
  2. Check and clean inverter fans
  3. String continuity testing at DC isolators.
  4. Resistance testing is undertaken to verify the integrity of the protective earth, grounding, or equipotential bonding of conductors and connections has been maintained.
  5. String voltage and current testing is performed to verify the PV system is operating within the design specifications.
  6. Functional testing ensures items such as switchgear and other control devices, are still mounted, connected and operating correctly.

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