Nissan has revealed plans to grow its capacity to create renewable energy at the Sunderland factory in north-east England. The proposals would see the Wearside plant’s solar farm grow significantly as Nissan hopes to build every single Leaf electric hatchback sold in Europe with 100 percent renewable energy.
The factory, which also builds the popular Qashqai and Juke compact SUVs, already has a wind farm and solar farm attached, but the proposals would see an extra 37,000 panels installed. Assuming the planning application is accepted, the enlarged site would be big enough to provide a fifth of the energy needed to power the sprawling factory.
Nissan began installing its first renewable energy sources at the Sunderland factory in 2005, when the first 10 wind turbines were built. In total, the turbines contribute 6.6 megawatts of power to the plant, alongside the 4.75 megawatts produced by the solar farm that was built in 2016. The proposed extension to the solar farm will bring the total output to 32 megawatts.
These plans are, however, somewhat nascent. The farm is being developed and installed by Engenera, which has published the plans ahead of a consultation with the public and the local community. After listening to feedback, the organisation expects to submit a full planning application later this year.
The solar farm extension is part of Nissan’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality across both its operations and the lifecycle of its products by 2050. It’s a plan that also includes electrification of cars, with every all-new Nissan vehicle in “key markets” will be electrified in some way – be that hybrid or full electric power. The company also claims it will be “introducing innovations in electrification and manufacturing technology” to help achieve its aims.
It’s an image Nissan is keen to portray, having launched the first mass-market electric car – the first-generation Leaf – more than a decade ago. The manufacturer claims the model has prevented 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year, while covering enough miles to drive around the earth 400,000 times.
“Renewables have already made a big difference to our business and we continue to look for ways to make the manufacturing process more sustainable,” said Alan Johnson, the vice-president of manufacturing at Nissan Sunderland. “As our products made in Sunderland become increasingly electrified, our manufacturing operations are an important part of the ecosystem that will take us to carbon neutrality.”