Pepper Communications goes solar

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Friday 25 January 2019

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Plymouth printer Pepper Communications has installed an array of solar PV panels onto the roof of its 2,800sqm premises in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

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356 solar panels have been installed onto Pepper's roof

356 280-Watt Q-Cells solar panels, which will generate more than 96,000kWh of energy per year, were fitted alongside SolarEdge inverters and optimisers to provide module-level monitoring and maximum performance.

The installation of the panels, which was carried out by CleanEarth over a two-week period in December, was planned and co-ordinated so that the day-to-day operations of Pepper’s print and finishing facilities were not affected in the busy run-up to Christmas.

The project will make Pepper’s CO2 footprint 800 tonnes smaller over the 25-year lifespan of the system, while the system’s ability to generate its own power means the business will be less exposed to the risks of rising energy costs.

CleanEarth also installed a display in Pepper’s reception, so its staff and customers can see the rate of generation from the solar PV, the carbon saving, and the savings on the company’s electricity bills.

Furthermore, in order to strike the optimum balance between sustainability and the company’s return on investment, CleanEarth designed the system to ensure most of the generated electricity is consumed directly on-site.

“We went out to a number of different suppliers and CleanEarth were the most proficient in terms of coming back with reassuring analysis,” said Pepper operations director Jake Whitford.

“That gave us a clear indication of the payback period as well as a nice graphical representation of the amount of carbon saved and the reduction of the impact on the environment.

“They nicely illustrated both the initial payback as well as the rate of return. So we presented that to the board and took it to our advisors and solar specialists at Francis Clark, whose financial services we use, and they said it was a great idea.”

The investment cost Pepper around £80,000. Whitford said the payback period will last four-and-a-half years while there will be a cumulative benefit at the 25-year period of £490,371.

The economics were helped by CleanEarth securing funding support from the Carbon Trust’s Green Business Fund.

“We operate a very power-hungry manufacturing plant, so our decision to invest in renewable energy will provide us with both significant energy savings and a reduced carbon footprint,” said Whitford.

“Our customers will also see that they are investing in a supplier that is conscious of the environment. This is a high focus for some customers, and most customers these days are at least environmentally aware and conscious.”

Pepper Communications has 41 full-time staff and around 20 casual workers, the majority of which work at the main Plymouth production facility.

Turning over around £6m, the business also operates satellite offices in London and Bristol and produces work on a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 B2 litho press and Xerox and Konica Minolta digital kit.

As well as its investment in renewables, energy efficiency and waste management, the business also encourages its customers to specify vegetable-based inks and papers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Additionally, it has recently installed LED lighting throughout its factory and offices.

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