A Rhuthun-based timber company is branching out into timber-framed solar panels - the first of their kind in the world. Clifford Jones Timber has already proved its green credentials by recycling its waste wood into biomass boilers onsite.
Solar power just got greener – that’s the proud claim of one of the UK’s top timber manufacturers who have developed the world’s first commercially produced timber solar panel frame.Clifford Jones Timber, who make over two million timber fence posts annually, have now turned their attention to the solar industry – and estimate it could be worth hundreds of millions in the next seven years.
The Ruthin-based company have developed its TimberSol range of wooden frames for solar panels – conventional panel frames are made from galvanised steel.
The frame is mounted on wooden polyposts, with the end that goes into the ground clad in polyurea to give a longer life while the frame is made from handmade laminated timber, made in the company’s own glulam plant and with a 25-year guarantee on frame and post.
Clifford Jones Timber Sales Director Nigel Bacon said: “Timber frames have been made before but the difference is that we are the first with the capability to mass produce them, enough for up to six million solar panels a year.
“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, the UK’s largest manufacturer of round fence posts, employ 77 people at their premises at Ruthin and at Gretna, in Scotland, and process 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.
Nigel Bacon 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 so they are at least as cheap as steel frames and, of course, they have a much smaller carbon footprint.
“The potential here is enormous because a medium-sized solar park producing 15 megawatts of electricity would require 60,000 solar panels which would need over 20,000 Posts and Beams which could be worth £1.5 million.
“We are uniquely well placed to manufacture these frame systems because we make the fence posts and we have the glulam plant producing laminated timber which is four times stronger than ordinary wood.
“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.”
He added that Clifford Jones Timber already has the capacity to manufacture up to 1.5 gigawatts of timber solar frames a year to hold up to six million solar panels which could be worth over a £100 million to the company.
That annual capacity is equivalent to the current amount of solar power already installed in the UK and he said: “We estimate that Clifford Jones Timber could help to reach the Governments target of 22GW by 2020 with the TimberSol frame system.
“That target is only seven years away but in that time we could manufacture 10GW worth of frame system worth to the company potentially hundreds of millions of pounds and those are big numbers.”
H/T Welsh Icons