North East Contracts

North East Contracts is a commercial roofing and wall cladding specialist based in Arbroath. It provides a range of services to main contractors, local authorities, private companies and homeowners throughout Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

Home for the company is a 314 sq ft building, providing office space and a workshop. Keen to reduce energy costs and maximise on the benefits of solar energy, Jacqueline Hacking, Managing Director, said:

When we first started feeling the effects of the energy crisis, we were concerned that the rate of energy costs were continuing to increase. I felt there was a need to offset our energy and look into a more sustainable future.

“Our heating supply is electric, and post-covid we built individual offices to allow segregation. Heating a lot of spaces is expensive and keeping our offices warm through the winter was our main concern. An additional consideration was the electric-powered saw in our workshop that is used for specific projects only.”

“We installed solar to offset day-to-day energy use in our offices, as well as periodic workshop use. We chose Forster Group for our solar installation after working together on several industrial roofing projects over the years. We have a longstanding relationship with them and trust their knowledge and experience of the solar energy field.”

Forster Group completed the installation of a 16.4kWp roof-mounted system for North East Contracts in May 2023 which comprises one Solis inverter and 40 JA Solar 410W panels.

Over the first six months, the solar panels provided a significant energy saving of 60% per month. Annually, this will have a major impact on the company’s energy bills, reducing total costs by approximately £2,000.

Forster Group also supported North East Contracts in securing an interest free Business Energy Scotland government loan for the solar panels, allowing them to make their investment with an eight year payback period.

“As well as seeing impressive results in our financial savings, we also have access to the manufacturer’s online system so that we can keep track of how much energy is being used. We can also monitor the amount of energy being taken from and put back into the grid and how much energy our solar panels are producing. This is a great way to track how self-sufficient we are and has been incredibly useful in allowing us to cut back. The system previously flagged an issue in which our heating system was using too much energy, so we turned off our additional heat pump and managed to half our usage.

“We’re thrilled with the performance of our solar installation so far and I will continue to recommend Forster Group as an established local company that knows the market. The technical team is incredibly helpful in providing analytical research to demonstrate cost savings and plan out the most effective solar solution to benefit their customers.

“The customer care from Forster Group has been second to none and our 10 year guarantee means they will monitor our solar installation to ensure everything is working at its most efficient capacity, making the journey totally stress-free.”

Clayton Caravan Park

Clayton Caravan Park is a luxury holiday park and leisure business in the East Neuk of Fife, located in a scenic tranquil setting near St Andrews. The holiday park has 700 caravans for guests and a range of on-site facilities, including a restaurant, bar and a leisure centre with a swimming pool, gym and sauna.

Managing Director, Andrew Kennedy became concerned post-Covid when, like many businesses, the holiday park was struck with a surge in electricity costs.

“Our energy bills surged, with a huge increase in December 2022, and I knew we needed to change our approach. The significant increase in running costs meant that we had to find a solution to become less reliant on energy from the grid. The big energy users at the time were our leisure centre and swimming pool, restaurant and bar, and main reception area. So we decided to invest in solar PV to take control of our energy usage.

“I know several businesses, including local farmers, who have used Forster Group in the past and are extremely happy with their results, which is why we decided to use them for our solar PV installation.”

Installation across three key areas of the site was completed in Summer 2023, including:

● Restaurant, kitchen and games arcade: 26.73kWp system with 2 Fronius inverters and 89 Viridian integrated modules. Projected 7.2 year payback, 17.35% ROI.

● Main office, laundry room and reception: 14.58kWp system with 1 Fronius inverter and 36 Viridian integrated modules. Projected 8.8 year payback, 13.27% ROI.

● Leisure centre and swimming pool: 52.48kWp system with 2 Fronius inverters and 128 JA Solar 410W panels. Projected 3.4 year payback, 36.83% ROI.

The solar panels now provide 30-40% of the energy used across those buildings and will reduce energy bills by approximately 15% per year, resulting in a massive saving on overheads for the business.

“Our solar installation is already saving us considerable sums of money. It also adds to our green credentials as a business by helping us to lower our carbon footprint.

“We would absolutely recommend Forster Group to anyone looking to have solar installed. The entire process was very smooth – from initial meetings, design and planning, through to installation. The engineers who carried out the job were excellent and completed the project within the promised timescales. The panels are working very well and the amount of energy savings we’ve made so far delivers on Forster’s figures that were promised at the outset.”

Work is currently underway with Forster Group for Clayton Caravan Park Limited’s next phase of installation. This will be two larger ground-mounted solar projects which will feed into the main electric usage for the caravan park.

Cookston Farm, Eassie, by Glamis

The Robertsons have been farming 700-acre Cookston Farm in Eassie for over 70 years. Now in the hands of the 3rd and 4th generation. David Robertson, along with his brother, father and mother, run the farm together.   

Potatoes, grown over 175 acres are Cookston Farm’s main crop — at any one time, approximately 3,500 tonnes of potatoes are stored in refrigerated cold stores, which require efficient energy to maintain a constant temperature of approximately 2.5OC. 

We were a bit luckier than some our neighbours as our electricity contract was fixed at 26 pence per unit.  But because further energy price increases are inevitable, it made perfect financial sense for us to investigate how to generate our own power from solar panels.   

As a farmer, it’s important for me and for my customers that we have sustainable farming practices in place: renewable solar energy is an integral part of achieving that. 

The installation was completed in March 2023 and now realise, we should have installed them a long time ago.  

We contacted two companies to scope out our requirements and to provide quotes. We went with Forster primarily because: 

We have a 68kWp roof-mounted system comprising 168 panels over four arrays. 

Forster’s design engineers were very professional, and took time to understand our energy requirements and what we needed to achieve from our investment in solar. Instead of trying to sell us an off-the-shelf system, they tailored one to our particular requirements.  

The system is configured so that it can easily be scaled up in the future to include a battery. However, Forster advised me to allow the system to bed in for a full year before considering any additional investment. This will allow me to make an informed decision on whether battery storage will meet my requirements. 

Actual installation on the roof of the cold stores was very straightforward.  It probably took two or three days over the course of two weeks for the job to be completed. The Forster team did everything from carrying out the initial site survey to design and installation. Importantly, they are very tidy workers — never any mess or clutter lying around during or after installation, which is pretty important on a farm like ours.   

“The monitoring app that Forster provided is brilliant as it lets us see in real time the energy we are generating, shows us our consumption and the amount that is being exported back to the grid.” 

With the panels we are able to use about 71% of our total generation.  Currently we export about 29% of what we generate back to the grid.   

To save more money, we time getting the loads ready for pick-up while the sun is shining. That way, we can use electricity generated from our solar panels to return the store temperature to 2.5OC when the doors are closed after drop-off. 

My solar PV system was installed in March 2023 and already I am seeing a 40% reduction in my energy and my projected return on investment is 20%.  

Because we were lucky enough to be on a low tariff, the payback period for our investment is around six years, which is a little longer than some of our neighbours, who, because they are on much higher tariffs, (some as much as 82p/kw) have shorter payback periods of about two years. 

After six years, I can count the electricity generated from my solar panels as free.  

Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, Methill

In the spring of 2016 Forster completed a 159kWp solar PV installation for the Levenmouth Community Energy Project. 180 panels were fitted on the roof of the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre in Methill. A further 440 panels were installed on unused ground next to East Fife Football Club’s, Bayview stadium. The Levenmouth Community Energy Project aims to be the world’s foremost demonstrator of innovative applications of hydrogen derived from renewable sources. The electricity generated by the panels is being fed into a microgrid, supplying buildings on the adjoining business park. It is also being used for the production of hydrogen for energy storage and hydrogen fueled vehicles. Click here for further information on the project.

The Sidings, Garmouth

Forster successfully delivered an 11 home solar PV retro-fit programme in Garmouth for Aberdeenshire social housing landlord Osprey Housing.

Eleven, eight panel (2kWp) solar PV systems were fitted, on the most southerly facing roof of each home. Due to the lack of southerly facing roof area on one of the homes a split south east/south west array was installed. SolarEdge power optimisers were connected to each panel to optimise the performance across the panels on both roofs.

Power diverters were also fitted in each home, meaning that any solar-generated-electricity not used by the resident, is diverted to heat their hot water tank, further reducing the amount of electricity they need to buy-in from their energy supplier during the day. “This is what really sold it to us”, explained Osprey Housing Energy Support Officer, Jane McWhirr, “as it means that all tenants will benefit, regardless of whether or not they are at home during the day. It was an ideal solution for these properties, which due to being off the gas grid, tend to have high electricity bills.”

The works were completed within a week as programmed, minimising any disruption to the residents. In order to help the residents maximise the benefit from the free electricity generated by the panels on their roof, Forster provided an eight page guide full of useful tips.

The eight panel systems could save the Garmouth residents as much as £200, depending on how much electricity they use during daylight hours. “One tenant said her weekly spend on electricity has already gone down from £20 to £15.”

“Forster have been a great contractor to work with,” said Jane, “they have been very open, with lots of information freely provided at each stage. Everything ran smoothly, with minimal disruption to tenants. Forster were flexible enough to work around our tenants’ availability and even provided each household with a user guide. It’s brilliant to hear that our tenants are already seeing the benefit of the new PV systems, and the improvement in the energy efficiency rating has meant that these homes are now meeting EESSH (Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing). Following the success of this, our first programme of PV, we are now considering rolling out PV programmes across other schemes.”

“We were delighted to be selected to work on this project, and it was really pleasing to receive such positive feedback from Osprey and their tenants” said Forster Energy Managing Director, Steve Scott. “PV provides a great solution for meeting the EESSH and tacking fuel poverty. It is cost effective and less intrusive than other measures and can have a significant impact on the Energy Efficiency ratings of homes and other buildings”.

The project was delivered through the Scottish Procurement Alliance (SPA) Energy Efficiency & Refurbishment framework. “We are really pleased with how this project was successfully delivered, it’s a great example of our Energy Efficiency & Refurbishment framework working well. Forster demonstrate the excellence we strive for at SPA, they have effectively safeguarded our client and demonstrate a suitable opportunity to procure an energy efficiency solution,” said Clive Feeney, Head of SPA Operations.

Bolshan Farm, Friockheim

Angus arable and potato farmers Ralph and Gary Smith of Bolshan Farm, Friockheim installed a 192 panel, 49.92kWp array on the south facing roof of one of his storage sheds. The system is providing power for potato cold storage, grain drying as well as general farm supply. The Smiths are using more than 50% of the 44,000kWh of electricity generated by his solar array. Therefore the system is set to payback within five years, and reap a 24% annual return on Gary’s investment for the next twenty years.

East of Scotland Growers, Cupar

Fife based farmer owned co-operative East of Scotland Growers installed a 120 panel solar array on the south facing roof of their cold storage unit in Cupar. The 30kWp array provides power for temperature controlled storage of broccoli and cauliflower as well as for general office supply. The co-operative are using over 50% of the 25,500kWh of electricity generated by the system which will result in an investment payback within 6 years, and an annual return of 21% for twenty years.

Pitmedden Garden, Ellon

The National Trust for Scotland’s beautifully green Pitmedden Garden in Aberdeenshire is now even greener with the introduction of solar PV panels. Installed on the roof of the Gardeners storage shed, the PV array generates enough energy to power the Museum of Farming Life and all other buildings at the stunning Aberdeenshire garden. In fact the 115 panel array generates over 25,000kWh of electricity a year, enough electricity to power 6 homes. In addition the site will reduce it’s CO² emissions by 11 tonnes per year through their PV installation.

The National Trust for Scotland has established a ‘Preferred PV Partner’ arrangement with us to help reduce their electricity costs and cut their fossil fuel use & carbon emissions. We have been working with the Trust since the beginning of 2014 – identifying suitable sites, as well as designing and installing PV systems at a number of locations across Scotland. These include Inverewe Garden & Estate and The House of Dun.

Hatton of Ogilvie, Glamis

Farmers have long been known for it, but Angus based farmer Graeme Jarron of Hatton of Ogilvy has taken diversification to a new level, by producing his own vodka label, Ogilvy Spirits, from his potato crop.  Earlier in the year Graeme, a tenant farmer of Strathmore Estates, secured planning permission to proceed with his plan to set-up the micro-distillery in a purpose built shed.

To support the increased power requirements of operating the new distillery and the continued running of the farm Graeme has installed a PV system, which allows him to produce his own supply of clean electricity.

A 30kWp, 120 panel array was installed by Scotland’s leading agricultural roof-top PV installer Forster Energy on the grain store roof adjacent to the distillery.

The first few months, since the installation was completed at the end of July, show the system outperforming projections by over 6%.

Graeme’s cousins, George and Scott Jarron of ‘Scott Brothers Butchers’, have also now installed a 22kWp PV system on the roof of their main store and processing facility in Dundee.

House of Dun, Montrose

This re-slating and in-roof solar PV installation on the modest ‘Bunkhouse’ within the grounds of the National Trust for Scotland House of Dun demonstrates Forster’s ability to sensitively integrate solar PV into slated roofs.

Following consultation with Forster, the Trust selected the ‘EasyRoof’ mounting system and black framed panels to sensitively blend in with the house. The 15 panel (3.75kWp) PV installation provides power for the electric heating, showers and all other appliances, particularly during the summer months, when the house is more frequently occupied by students. The full south facing roof elevation was utilised to maximise the PV power potential.

The roof had a bell-cast, which presented a challenge to the installation team. This was overcome by the addition of support beneath the bottom row of panels.

This project is part of a ‘Preferred PV Partner’ arrangement with the National Trust for Scotland to help reduce their electricity costs and cut their fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. The Trust selected Forster’s based on their roofing and project management experience, particularly their expertise with working on historically sensitive and occupied buildings. Forster has been working with the Trust since the beginning of 2014 – identifying suitable sites, as well as designing and installing PV systems at a number of locations across Scotland. These include Inverewe Garden & Estate and Pitmedden Garden.

Steelstrath, Laurencekirk

The continuing rise in the cost of energy has impacted everybody, but it presents a particular challenge to farmers with a high electricity demand.  The Carnegies, widely known for supplying cultivation, harvesting, spraying and lime spreading contract services to farmers across the Mearns, recognised how PV could help them counter this challenge and allow them to take control of their own energy costs.

East coast farmers and contractors David, Brian and Derek Carnegie of D.M. Carnegie have just had a 50kWp PV array installed by Scotland’s leading agricultural roof-top solar PV supplier, Forster Energy on the roof of a grain store at their Steelstrath premises near Laurencekirk? .

The initial 200 panel 50kWp roof-top solar PV array was installed under permitted development works.  Subject to planning approval the Carnegies are looking to bolt on to the same composite roof a further 50kWp array.  They are also in the process of installing a 500kW wind turbine which will further enhance their green credentials.

It is expected that the Carnegies system will have paid for itself within six years and yield a 20 year annual return on investment of an impressive 22%.

Grampian Growers, Montrose

Many farms and other agricultural related businesses are coming under increased pressure from their supply chain to become greener by finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

One such business is North East daffodil and seed potato co-operative Grampian Growers, who has turned to solar PV to generate its own supply of clean electricity.  The Montrose based co-operative grow, store and process daffodil bulbs, flowers and seed potatoes mainly for export to America, mainland Europe and North Africa.

“We were also keen to take control of our energy costs, by reducing the amount of electricity we buy in.  PV presented us with the perfect opportunity to do just that, by utilising the available roof space on the site” added Production Manager, Fergus Kelly.

The 593 panel 148.25kWp PV array was installed over two large south facing composite roofs by Forster Energy, Scotland’s leading supplier of roof-top solar PV for farmers.  An initial 50kWp array was installed in June to secure a higher feed in tariff rate.  A further 98.25kWp was added in September following approval of planning permission.

Constraints on grid capacity place a limit on the amount of electricity Grampian Growers can export.  Therefore a special export control system was installed to regulate the amount of electricity that is fed into the grid.  “Increased pressure on grid capacity has led to a growing number of instances of export restrictions being placed on renewable energy generators.  For this reason export control systems like this are becoming more widely used” explained Stephen Ward, Forster’s Design Engineer.

The new PV system is projected to have paid for itself within seven years and is set to provide a 19% annual return on the initial investment through energy savings and feed in and export tariff payments.

East Hills Farm, Carmyllie

East Hills Farm is a potato farm situated in an idyllic location in central Angus. The requirement for cold storage to preserve the potato crop results in a high electricity usage. With their electricity consumption rising during the longest days of the year (the optimum period for solar), energy generation through solar PV provided the perfect match to meet the farm’s electricity profile.

Following consultation (involving discussion on the electricity profile) and a thorough feasibility assessment of the farm by Forster’s technical team, the Cowan’s agreed to the installation of a 38kWp roof mounted and 112kWp free standing installation on otherwise unused land.

The composite roof mounted array involved the installation of 152 250W Canadian Solar panels. Additionally 448 TRINA 250W panels were installed on the ground. Following a full assessment of the ground structure the Renusol ballasted ConSole mounting system was selected to counter issues created by an inherently rocky site.

The 150kWp system is projected to provide a payback (including FIT & Export payments and energy saving) within seven years and generate a total profit/saving (over 20 years) of £514,000.

The Cowan’s have benefited through gaining greater control of their energy costs, creating a good yield from an otherwise unproductive piece of land, whilst generating a twenty year income stream through the feed in tariff and reducing the farm’s carbon footprint.

Pitlivie Farm, Muirdrum

Pitlivie Farm, near Carnoustie in Angus is the site of one of Scotland largest agricultural roof mounted PV installations.

The farm owned and managed by Hugh Niven grows and supplies potatoes for distributor Albert Bartlett. With a high energy requirement from long term storage of produce, rising electricity costs have led Hugh to explore ways to gain greater control of the farm’s energy costs.

Awareness of other PV installations completed locally provided us with the opportunity to talk to Hugh about the energy profile of his farm and present the key benefits of generating electricity through solar PV.

The electricity supply at Pitlivie consists of two meter points and two transformers, supplying electricity for a variety of farm equipment across the site. We took the decision to split the array between the two transformers allowing Hugh to maximise his onsite usage. An 80kWp array feeds one of the transformers, generating power for the farm’s grain drier, washer plant and one of the farm’s cold storage units. A further 160kWp array feeds the other transformer, powering the potato grader and multiple remaining cold storage units.

The decision was made to initially install a 50kWp array under permitted development works. Once planning permission was received the full 240kWp multiple roof array was completed. The system was spread across four roofs. The nine hundred and sixty panel array was fixed directly to the roof purlins and is supported by nine PowerOne inverters and two G59 relays.

In the first few weeks of production the system is already outperforming our projections. At this pace the system will have paid for itself in less than six years, generating a total Feed In Tariff income and energy cost saving for the Niven’s of £737,000 over 20 years. In addition to the financial benefits, the PV system is significantly reducing the farm’s carbon emissions, making it more attractive to their supply chain.

Cronan Farm, By Coupar Angus

In the heart of Strathmore the McLaren family, are reaping the rewards of a solar power project. With a maximum output of 176kWp it is the match of many wind turbine systems and a very good fit for the broccoli and potato enterprises on the farm.

The McLaren’s main electricity use at Cronan is tied to cold storage for 7,500 tonnes of potatoes and chilling of between 15 and 30 tonnes per day of broccoli. Aligning high-power generation with requirements for high power demand was therefore a key objective. As the cold store power demand is highest during periods of sunny weather and the broccoli chilling harvest period is spread over the months when solar radiation is highest, solar PV provides the ideal solution. The harvested broccoli which is marketed through East of Scotland Growers goes to supermarket buyers who appreciate the carbon savings achieved by using renewable energy.

The mounting system for the 720 panel array was fixed directly to the building’s purlins. Whilst the panels might look as though they add to the roof loading, at 15 tonnes (in total) it is relatively insignificant compared with a snow loading over the same area of more than 200 tonnes. To supplement the solar PV system the McLarens also installed a sophisticated control system which monitors temperatures from the four cold stores on site and works out which areas require cooling and when. This maximises the use of solar generated electricity during the day, and ensures that as much of the bought in electricity as possible is on the cheaper night time tariff.

Pay-back on the project is projected to be within seven years, but in the first few months of generation the electricity output was 3% ahead of budget.

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