Long-term, low-cost power and cooling in a mixed use arts centre

June 12th, 2013 by

Study into the technical and financial feasibility of installing solar photo-voltaic system on a mixed use arts centre.


Tobacco Factory, Bristol.

What was the project about?

The Tobacco Factory in south Bristol comprises a café bar, offices, residential apartments and the Tobacco Factory Theatre. Having embarked on an energy reduction programme which included high efficiency boilers and controls, low energy lighting, water saving, and energy efficiency appliances including low energy hand dryers, The Tobacco Factory wanted to look at the options for renewable energy generation in the building.

In addition to meeting a proportion of the total energy demand, the theatre wanted to know what options there were for meeting some or all of the energy requirements for a recently installed air conditioning system in the theatre’s auditorium.

Using PV to cut rising energy costs in a mixed use development

North facing roof lights, meant south facing elevations ideal for PV.

Methodology – how we approached this

We considered a number of options including small scale wind (which was discounted on account of the built up nature of the area), heat pumps and PV.

The design of the building lent itself to the installation of PV as the roof has north facing ‘lights’ leaving south facing elevated pitches with an alloy roof covering making the installation of PV straight-forward. A photovoltaic system had the further advantage that periods of high output from the system would coincide with some of the times, such as summer matinée performances, when the air conditioning is required.

To assess the projected energy yields and financial returns for systems of differing sizes we produced a spreadsheet model which accounted for feed-in tariffs, exported energy, maintenance costs, projected energy costs, and age related reductions in system performance over the lifetime of the system.

Key findings

On the basis of our report the Tobacco Factory issued a  tender for the installation of a 22.5kWp system which has been installed and is now operational.


Energy generated by the system has exceeded the projected output of 19,125kWh per annum, by up to 29%.

Links and resources

Written by

Environmental consultant, facilitator, founder & Director of Climate Works Ltd.