Forster Group to install hundreds of new solar panels for Dundee care home provider

Leading roofing and solar provider, Forster Group, has been appointed by family-owned Priority Care to install 280 state-of-the-art solar panels at two of its Dundee care homes. 

The organisation is investing £210,000 to futureproof the buildings and make them more energy efficient, while ensuring they continue to provide the highest quality care for residents. 

Work is due to be completed this month at the newly refurbished Harestane Care Home, situated to the north of the city. Forster Group will install 144 solar panels with a total capacity of 58.32 kilowatt peak (kWp) and two inverters to convert the DC power from the PV modules into AC power. 

The system will generate approximately 45 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy annually with the investment recouped through energy savings over a period of approximately nine years.  Around 75% of energy generated from the panels will help to power the care home’s amenities, including a hydrotherapy swimming pool, commercial kitchen and laundry. 

Forster will also be installing 136 panels, with a capacity of 57.12 kWp, and two inverters at Priority Care’s St Columba’s Care Home near the city centre. Similar to Harestane, this installation will deliver around 45 MWh of clean, renewable energy with a payback period of just under seven years. 

It’s estimated St Columba’s Care Home will use around 90% of energy generated by the panels which will help to power the home’s fully electric heating system, along with commercial washers and dryers in its inhouse laundry. Work is due to be completed in February.

Andy Prior, Director of Priority Care, said: “Using solar power to futureproof our buildings is something we have been considering for a number of years. The huge increase in energy costs was the real driver and pushed us to move ahead with our plans.

“This is a very significant investment for Priority Care. We are delighted with the results at Harestane and look forward to seeing work start at St Columba’s in the new year. 

“We wanted to make sure we were choosing the most experienced and reliable provider. Choosing to work with Forster Group was easy as the team are incredibly experienced and knowledgeable. From the very beginning, the process has been simple and straightforward and the team are always on hand to answer questions. We were also provided with a clear programme of work at Harestane, allowing us to provide the necessary communication for residents and their families. 

“At Priority Care we are committed to providing the very best care for our residents. By investing to make our care homes more energy efficient we can make sure they’re fit for the future.”  

Bruce Raffell, Commercial Director at Forster Group, said: “We are passionate about working closely with local businesses to help them generate their own energy from solar. 

“We are pleased to be supporting Priority Care as it takes steps to future proof its buildings and become more energy efficient. This will ensure they can continue to provide the very best care for residents. Large buildings with un-shaded roofs, like care homes, can present ideal conditions for solar panels. 

“We are committed to leading the way in solar best practice and our team provides a comprehensive in-house service focused on delivering the most innovative and cost-effective solutions to our customers. Our highly experienced engineers, designers, roofing and electrical specialists offer expert advice on everything from design, planning, and delivery, to support, maintenance and aftercare.”

It’s crunch time for businesses to cut energy costs – Bruce Raffell

The climate change battle is now at a crucial point where sustainable buildings are vital, not only to ensure the long-term safety of the planet, but to help businesses and homeowners navigate surging energy costs. Unfortunately fuel poverty is becoming increasingly prevalent, business energy costs are increasingly challenging and the impact of fossil fuels on our planet is starkly evident. 

Thankfully the way we generate our energy is shifting dramatically. The last quarter of 2023 showed a considerable 17% increase in the output of renewable energy compared to 2022. On the other hand, oil production fell to a record quarterly low and gas production plummeted by as much as 13%.

As part of a company that has been providing integrated solar and roofing solutions for over 30 years, I am able to see first hand the environmental and economic impact of solar installation for businesses and homeowners. Working with a variety of sectors, from housebuilders and manufacturing businesses, to domestic, we help achieve significant, long term savings in energy bills every year. With the right advice, design and installation, it is possible to shrink the standard unit cost of electricity by as much as 90% to as little as 7 pence per kWh.

We were delighted to be recognised for our contribution to the environment with the People Place Planet award from industry body, Homes for Scotland, which represents the home building sector. In addition to new build homes, solar brings striking benefits to all industries. For high-energy users such as agriculture, food and drink, and manufacturing businesses, the payback opportunities are remarkable. 

One of our most recent customers is a luxury holiday park and leisure business in the East Neuk of Fife. With accommodation for hundreds of guests, restaurants and a leisure complex with a swimming pool, energy costs were a significant share of their running costs. In less than a year they have already reduced their reliance on the grid by up to 40%, thanks to their rooftop solar PV installation. With a reduction in energy bills and savings that already equate to tens of thousands of pounds every year, we are currently in the midst of installing the next phase of solar – a ground mounted system – to help them maximise these energy savings even more.  

But sadly, many high-energy users still are yet to grasp the energy nettle to reap the benefits of solar energy. The lighter days are fast approaching and the cost of solar installation is at an all-time low. The average price per panel has halved over the past year due to the scaling up of global production and large stocks available throughout Europe. With growing geo-political challenges it is only a matter of time until these stocks are used up and shipment prices rise, which will lead to higher costs to install solar. 

It’s crunch time, and businesses who want to make major energy savings and help battle climate change need to act fast in order to make tangible change at a much lower expense.

We’re currently facing a severely challenging climate both economically and environmentally. In the coming months I hope to see more commercial companies take the leap towards their solar energy future. Whilst it might seem like a daunting change to begin with, with the right expert guidance and type of solar installation, the long-term reward will do wonders in helping manage spiralling energy bills as well as helping to save our planet.

Bruce Raffell is commercial director at Forster Group, Scotland’s largest integrated solar roofing business.

Is environmentally friendly low-cost solar energy finally taking its place in the sun?

Pulling on an extra sweater, half filling the kettle to make a cup of tea and religiously turning off the lights are just some of the adjustments we find ourselves making in the face of spiralling energy costs and global warming. With the government’s Energy Price Guarantee Scheme becoming less generous, an ending to the energy bills support scheme for households, and the introduction of the new Energy Discount Schemes for Business (EDSB), we may well collectively take a sharp intake of breath at the thought of even higher energy pricing to come.

The potential however, to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce energy bills and guarantee energy independence through solar generated electricity is enormous. Even in our dear old wet and cloudy Scotland, the available radiance can, with the right solar PV, be harnessed to generate a reliable source of electricity all year round — essential for intensive energy users such as manufacturers and farmers. 

Amid soaring energy prices and inflation eroding the value of cash, the team at the Forster Group are seeing an unprecedented level of enquiries not just amongst our loyal house builder clients but also from farmers and food producers. They see solar power as the fastest route to reducing and stabilising their energy costs and as a way of reducing the need to purchase power from energy suppliers.

Solar and storage technologies have come a long way since they were first introduced. The panels we use in our integrated solar roofing systems today have far higher efficiency and produce significantly more power. Their superior light trapping and improved current collection means that roof and ground mount sites can be configured much more efficiently to maximise the production of lower cost green energy. Up-front installation costs have also fallen considerably over the last decade, making investment in solar an even more attractive proposition.

Importantly, integrated solar solutions can be tailored with future energy and grid developments in mind so that they can be connected to storage batteries, either immediately or when the grid in a customer’s area permits. 

Farmers, processors and manufacturers looking to capitalise on their roof spaces for the production of lower cost green energy, will typically make solar panels their first choice.  However, ground mounted panels, which share the same energy generating properties and efficiencies as roof panels are increasingly popular on lower grade land.

By tailoring the most cost-effective solar solution – and where applicable, solar storage – to precisely match current and projected energy requirements, both ground-mounted and roof installation offer excellent energy cost savings and returns on investment.

With the right solar installation, the standard unit cost of electricity can be reduced from the recent highs of 75 or 80 pence per kW to as little as 10 pence. Typically, from the savings made against increases in power costs, the pay-back period for solar installation is around two years.

For those interested in adopting solar, the process is quick and easy. Using the latest design software, a desktop survey and quotation can be provided within a day. Backed up by a site survey and feasibility study, a solar installation can be complete in as short a time as three weeks. With changes expected to Permitted development rules this spring, commercial and industrial businesses will join farmers in no longer needing planning permission for solar installations.

I established the Forster Group, one of Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing businesses, 30 years ago. In the early days of solar, we were met with some cynicism, however, as we enter our fourth decade, we increasingly see former customers increasing their solar capacity, and I look forward to helping more businesses in farming, manufacturing and house building secure a more sustainable and affordable energy future. 

John Forster: What needs to happen in 2023

As we enter a new year, the energy crisis continues to dominate our lives. The transition from traditional energy sources to renewables remains crucially important if we are to support consumers to achieve a more energy-efficient and affordable future.

Our chair, John Forster, looks ahead to 2023 and outlines what he believe needs to happen.

“The transition to Net Zero will increasingly be seen in 2023 as the biggest challenge for the Built Environment in living memory. We’re looking for the joined-up thinking that’s been lacking to date, that will give clear direction to education, industry, investors, innovators and stakeholders.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform our industry which we cannot afford to miss, for the benefit of everyone.

“Throughout the 2010s we saw mixed messaging and confusion which contributed to a loss of confidence within the industry on how it can innovate and have control of its own energy future. Investment has been wasted and this, in turn, has stalled innovation and led to an increasingly unaffordable transition.

“In 2023, we must see joined-up policy making. We also need to set clear, consistent and integrated standards that drive innovation and investment from industry and the public sector alike.”

Statement from John Forster on proposed Scottish Government energy cuts

“With many households and businesses across Scotland struggling with energy bills and the rising cost of living, now is the time where support is needed most.

“The ongoing energy crisis has only made consumers even more aware of the need to transition away from traditional carbon-based fuels and embrace a more renewable future.

“The news that the Scottish Government is planning on cutting millions of pounds from vital schemes designed to support a transition towards a net-zero future is worrying.

“Increased and affordable Retrofitting of existing buildings, to help make them more energy efficient, is essential to our net-zero transition. However, this wave of cuts, particularly the £45m from the Heat in Buildings capital grants scheme, can only have a detrimental impact on Scotland achieving its net-zero targets.

“Just a few weeks ago I praised the Scottish Government following an announcement that it is to consult on reforming planning regulations for solar installations on non-domestic buildings. It’s regrettable that this may now be in jeopardy.

“With knowledge and awareness of renewable energy among consumers at an all-time high, it is crucial that we harness this and increase the support on offer – not take it away.

“By removing much needed support, we run the very real risk of going backwards and creating even more of a backlog of houses and buildings which may never be adequately adapted to make them warmer and more efficient.

“As industry shows leadership and investment in the essential skills of the future, through initiatives like the Forster Skills Academy, we need matching commitment from government to provide certainty for that investment.

“As Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business we have worked hard with the Scottish Government to ensure solar has a seat at the table and is part of the discussion for the country’s renewable energy future.

“Now is a time for us all to tighten our belts but we shouldn’t be cutting off the supply to vital schemes which will help us out of this crisis, otherwise it will only deepen.”

John Forster, chair, Forster Group

Statement from John Forster on proposed reforming of planning regulations for non-domestic solar

“The announcement that the Scottish Government intends to consult on reforming planning regulations for non-domestic solar installations is very welcome news against an increasingly bleak economic picture.

“It’s clear that current planning rules are no longer fit for purpose and will do very little to help commercial businesses take more control of their own energy generation and usage. If consumers wish to install solar panels to support their own energy generation then we should make it as easy as possible.

“It’s reassuring to learn that the Scottish Government is listening to the solar energy industry and taking our concerns and recommendations seriously.

“The ongoing energy crisis has made consumers, both domestic and commercial, more aware that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future should come from renewable sources.

“While overall awareness of alternative energy sources is growing, more work needs to be done to educate consumers on how they can have greater control of their own energy affordability, using different sources of renewable energy, flexibly. Solar energy has a crucial role to play.

“As Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business we look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government and policy makers to implement viable solutions to ensure a more balanced and sustainable energy future.”

John Forster, chair, Forster Group

Commentary: Energy crisis will only worsen unless we offer a balanced smart transition

Energy prices skyrocketing, rising inflation rates and a potential year-long recession, the immediate economic picture for the UK looks bleak.

With more bad

news appearing on our TV screens and front pages every day, consumers and business owners are desperately trying to plan for a difficult few years ahead.

It’s undeniable that the energy we have used for most of the last century is changing. More consumers understand that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future should come from renewable sources.

While overall awareness of alternative energy sources is growing, a fundamental issue remains and it’s contributing to the spreading unrest and panic. We haven’t done enough to educate consumers on how they can have greater control of their own energy affordability, using different sources of renewable energy, flexibly.

Established by myself over 30 years ago, Forster Group has grown to become Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business. Not only do we design, supply and install solar panels to thousands of new build homes across the country, we work closely with the farming and commercial sectors to provide tailored renewable energy solutions.

As we enter our fourth decade, we are busier than ever and this continued growth has equipped us with the necessary tools to help deliver a smart energy future and the expertise to work with government, policy makers and energy providers to develop viable solutions.

Sadly there is simply not enough engagement or clarity from government on how we can use different types of renewable energy to achieve a net zero transition and crucially make it affordable at every level of society. Nor is there a clear willingness to offer solar a seat at the table.

The current trajectory that we are on doesn’t represent a smart transition or an affordable energy future.

Obsessive windfarm infrastructure installation on large scale sites is simply not generating the electricity required at the right time or the right place when they are situated miles off the coast. Therefore, we need to look at adopting a more balanced approach, combining energy generation, consumption and storage to help spread the load, and drive down costs.

As a country we joke about the lack of sunshine, but modern solar panels work even in cloudy weather and, believe it or not, rain can even help keep them clean.

Unfortunately, so far, the consumers benefiting most from the transition to renewables are those who have already invested in solar panels. From the time of installation, these people knew how much energy was going to be generated and how much it was going to cost. This cost is even lower for new installations today, and consumers could be paying a fraction of what they are from energy suppliers.

Solar, and its effectiveness as an energy source, needs to be much more visible so that consumers can make an informed decision on whether to invest in their own flexible energy future.

With prices for traditional carbon-based energy soaring, consumers are quickly realising that this continued increase simply isn’t sustainable and they are looking to the government and policy makers for help.

If we don’t crack the affordability challenge, then fuel poverty will stretch much further across society and have a significant impact for all. There can be no certainty for those consumers who are reliant on policy makers to show what an affordable energy future looks like. We are simply getting a flavour of how difficult the situation could be for decades to come.

John Forster, Chair, Forster Group

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