Timber company and renewable specialist create greener solar panels

A top timber company has teamed up with a renewable energy specialist to sell the world’s first commercially produced timber solar panel frames.

The ground-breaking system means that solar power just got greener according to Ruthin-based Clifford Jones Timber.

Now the company have called in green energy specialists Carbon Zero Renewables as global distributors of the new frame which is cheaper to make than conventional galvanised steel, lighter, lasts just as long and has a much smaller carbon footprint.

In fact Clifford Jones Timber have taken the product to an even more environmentally friendly level by promising to take back the frames after 25 years to turn them into biomass fuel.

They currently make 2.5 million timber fence posts annually and some of those will now support the new timber frames they can mass produce at their Brickfield Lane base near Ruthin.

The treated fence posts will have a 25-year guaranteed life span and can be installed using conventional farm post-knocking equipment with no need for concreting.

The Ruthin-based company have developed its TimberSol range of wooden frames for solar panels, can also make them in laminated form at their own laminating plant at Ruthin and estimate they could be worth millions of pounds and there is already strong interest from the solar energy industry.

Gareth Jones, of St Asaph company Carbon Zero Renewables, said: “This has the potential to revolutionise the solar industry because the timber frames, which hold the solar panels, are cheaper than the conventional steel frames.

Gareth Jones of Carbon Zero at Trefnant Village Hall.

“We have been working on this product behind the scenes with Clifford Jones Timber for months. We have pooled our knowledge of the Solar Industry and worked with them as timber specialists to develop this great range of products.

“We have the technical and manufacturing ability to even produce a custom system to suit if required.

“The concept was to keep it simple and to mimic the way it is installed currently on large scale. We are really excited to be on this journey and already have our sights set on Europe, the Middle East, India, the USA and China for the product.

“These things are costed at price per kilowatt hour of electricity but if you are even one pence an hour cheaper then that makes a massive difference.

“An average size solar farm has 60,000 solar panels and can generate 15 Megawatts of power, a thousand watts is a kilowatt and a million kilowatts make a megawatt.

“That means that one penny adds up to £150,000 a year cheaper and those sorts of figures make people sit up and take notice.”

The frame, mounted on wooden posts, comes with a 25-year guarantee on frame and post and Clifford Jones Timber Sales Chairman Alan Jones said: “The potential here is enormous because a medium-sized solar park of 60,000 solar panels which would need over 80,000 posts and frames could be worth £1.5 million.

“They are strong, durable, easy to install and made from FSC – Forest Stewardship Council – timber that is fully traceable and from sustainable forests, as is all the timber we use.”

Clifford Jones Timber employ over 80 people at their premises at Ruthin and at Gretna, in Scotland, and process over 100,000 tons of timber a year.

The range of products they supply includes fence posts, gates, laminated timber for the construction and leisure industries, bedding for horses and even cat litter, and a range of wood fuels, from dried logs and wood briquettes to wood pellets for biomass boilers.

Alan Jones added: “Everything that comes onto the site here is used. Nothing goes to waste thanks to three biomass boilers installed onsite.

“It’s that commitment to sustainability that has encouraged us to develop the wooden frames for solar panels.

“These could be used either on small domestic installations or on large scale solar parks and we believe we are leading the way in this field, not just nationally but Europe-wide.

“Solar power is clean energy and so now are the frames which can hold the solar panels and they are competitively priced, lighter and so easier to transport and, of course, they have a much smaller carbon footprint.

“We are uniquely well placed to manufacture these frame systems because we make the fence posts and can make the frames as well and in its laminated form it is four times stronger than ordinary wood.

“In a rigid timber form they support solar panels to make clean energy and then they can be brought back to us and we recycle them as biomass pellets to be burnt to create electricity.

“The design we have developed is also easily adjustable because solar panels have to be adjusted to the angle of the sun, depending where in the world you are – on the equator the sun is directly overhead but in the UK the panels need to be approximately at a 35 degree angle.

“That flexibility means that our frames could be used anywhere in the world and that could open up massive new markets for us.”

For more on Clifford Jones Timber go to http://www.cjtimber.com/ or to Twitter @Timber_Sol

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