Posted on 23rd November 2023

How The Bottle Yard’s TBY2 Studios became home to the largest community-owned rooftop solar array in the UK

A year ago, in November 2022, Bristol’s Bottle Yard Studios opened TBY2 (The Bottle Yard 2), their second facility which is powered by a 1MWp rooftop solar array consisting of over 2,300 photovoltaic panels. Believed to be the largest community-owned rooftop solar array in the UK, it was also, until very recently, the largest PV installation on a film/TV studios rooftop (an accolade it held until Sky Studios Elstree confirmed a 3MWp array in September).

Even with that record broken, there is another industry ‘first’ that TBY2 has achieved. The rooftop solar array was funded by the share offering of a community energy organisation, namely Bristol Energy Cooperative. It generates enough clean energy generates to power the equivalent of more than 250 average Bristol households per year. Better still, during peak conditions, when the array produces more energy than the Council-owned facility needs, surplus energy will be ‘sleeved’ to other public buildings in Bristol – meaning that the studio is also helping Bristol reach its 2030 net zero goal!

For TBY2, decarbonisation was embedded in the building from the outset. The array complements a number of other elements of what was an entirely sustainability-focused design and build process. TBY2 has premium insulation throughout and we have a sophisticated building management system that ensures optimal energy conservation. We’re really proud that the building is being put to such valuable use, generating huge amounts of clean energy to power the site, with surplus power benefitting the city through the City Leap Partnership

— Katherine Nash, The Bottle Yard’s Business Operations Manager and Sustainability Lead

Community ownership & energy model

Not only does BEC’s (Bristol Energy Cooperative) community model provide a return on investment for its local shareholders, it also channels surplus revenue into the local community through the funding of more local energy projects. Grants awarded by BEC in 2022 included supporting training sessions for advice on fuel poverty; installations of energy efficient lighting in schools and purchasing equipment to fix bikes for those who can’t afford it themselves.

Exported energy from the TBY2 facility is currently sold through a traditional PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) to Younity, who also provided an essential construction loan for the project. Next month, this will change to a Sleeved PPA, providing a virtual connection between the solar installation and Bristol City Council’s wider estate. This is a precursor to the council’s full Sleeved Pool which is due to launch in 2024 in conjunction with Bristol City Leap. This will help Bristol City Council reduce its energy costs and reach its net-zero targets by sourcing renewable energy from local generators such as BEC via long-term PPAs.

Carbon savings & learnings

TBY2’s solar array is resulting in carbon savings of nearly 200 tC02e per year. The scale of the project and the speed at which it was completed is a demonstration of how to rapidly increase rooftop PV generating capacity with minimal impacts on the electrical grid. The installation was carried out by a local company (Somerset-based Solar South West) using European panels, specifically avoiding the use of manufacturers that have been associated with unethical supply chains. The on-site electricity generation also supports the use of air-source heat pumps at the building, replacing gas.

“The TBY2 rooftop installation is our largest to date,” says Andy O’Brien, Co-Director of Bristol Energy Cooperative. “It shows the power of community energy as a force for good, not only for the city of Bristol but for everyone enjoying the film and TV productions being filmed at the studio.”

Inspiring similar projects

The process by which TBY2’s solar array was funded, installed and subsequently managed is 100% replicable across the UK. And there is plenty of opportunity for projects of this size to become commonplace across UK studios, all of which would contribute to meeting net zero goals locally and nationally.



Studio Sustainability Standard

TBY2 took part in the inaugural year of the Studio Sustainability Standard, earning a rating of ‘Very Good’, which was the highest rating any studio in the cohort achieved. The Studio Sustainability Standard is a voluntary standard for studio facilities that has been created by and for the industry.

By taking part, studios are able to focus and pinpoint key areas within their facility, where they can make improvements to reduce environmental impact over 6 key areas: Climate, Circularity, Nature, People, Management and Data. Participating studios will receive a bespoke performance report as well as a grade which will allow them to benchmark their own progress as well as compare themselves to other studio facilities across the globe.

“Receiving this standard is a great accolade for the new TBY2 facility,” says Councillor Kye Dudd, Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy. “The rating is a major endorsement of the journey we are on to deliver Bristol’s 2030 carbon neutral ambition and the approach we are taking to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies in partnership with the community.”

Keep up to date with all things Bottle Yard Studios over at their website.