SUSTAINABLE clothing company Rapanui has installed a solar array on its roof capable of powering its West Wight factory — and it hopes to do even more in the future.
The company, which employs more than 30 people at its Freshwater base, specialises in clothing made from natural, biodegradable materials, using sustainably produced energy, such as wind and solar.
Last month, the business completed the installation of a solar array on its roof that can produce 14kw of electricity — energy that is used directly to power the factory.
The company had wanted to do more but has been limited by the capacity of the infrastructure on the Island, which is run by Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN), as well as current legislation.
As reported by the County Press in May, SSEN is carrying out improvements to the Island’s power distribution network but the move threatened to leave some Island solar farms temporarily unable to feed in energy to the grid, leaving them significantly out of pocket.
Rapanui co-founder Mart Drake-Knight said: “We have been able to install enough solar panels to virtually power the factory but we want to do more. We want to become a net exporter of sustainable energy.”
Colin Palmer, of Wight Community Energy — which feared it could lose up to £250,000 this year while it was unable to access the grid due to the SSEN work — said recent talks with the company had been positive.
He said it was now hoped the number of ‘outages’ leaving them off the grid this summer had been greatly reduced.
He was also positive about possible changes in legislation, which would make it easier for solar energy producers to store energy — allowing it to be used at peak demand times or when the sun was not shining.
A power generators forum has also been created to give solar farms the chance to speak directly to SSEN about issues affecting them. He said there were hopes the Island could get its own forum, in addition to the wider regional forum.