Nissan has been given the green light to expand a solar farm at its Sunderland plant, which is currently undergoing a huge investment project to create a new Gigafactory.
Earlier in the year, Nissan unveiled plans to build a new solar farm at its Sunderland Plant – the facility at the heart of its Leaf electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing process.
The automaker confirmed in March that it would apply for planning permission for a 20MW solar farm at the plant, which is the UK’s largest single car manufacturing facility, following community consultation.
The company’s installation partner Engenera submitted a planning application for the expansion back in October. This has now been approved by the local authorities.
“We have been using renewable sources on-site for more than 15 years,” Nissan’s vice president of manufacturing at the Sunderland plant, Alan Johnson said.
“The expansion of our solar farm is an integral part of the Nissan EV36Zero project and the company’s journey to carbon neutrality.”
The plant is already co-located with a 6.6MW onshore wind farm with ten turbines and a 4.75MW solar farm. Following the approval for the expansion, it is now expected that the facility will be able to meet 20% of its electricity needs with self-generated renewables.
Nissan is notably striving to achieve carbon neutrality across its direct operations and across the product life-cycle by 2050.
The company wants to transform the facility into a £1bn EV hub that will feature a 9GWh battery production gigafactory – the first of its kind in the UK.
The Nissan EV36Zero EV hub was launched earlier in the year through an initial £1bn investment by Nissan and its battery technology partner Envision AESC with support from Sunderland City Council. The “hub” combines EV manufacturing, optimised renewable energy use and large-scale battery production to drive low-carbon innovation.
Nissan will invest up to £423m to produce a next-generation EV in the UK, while Envision AESC will invest £450m into what will be the UK’s first gigafactory, located adjacent to the Nissan plant in the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP). The gigafactory will be powered by renewable energy.
The new gigafactory will create 750 new jobs and safeguard 300 existing employees. Future plans could see up to 4,500 green jobs created in the region by 2030. No date has been given as to when the plant will become operational.
The company has also confirmed a £52m investment into its Sunderland facility that will enable the use of recycled and lightweight aluminium for the production of Qashqai vehicles to reduce the energy required for material processing.
The £52m investment focuses on aluminium production at Nissan’s Sunderland plant. The automaker has invested in a second extra-large press line and a “cyclone” recycling facility that extracts scrap metal to be used by suppliers for re-production. The second press line was issued at the site last year and can produce scrap at 150km/hour while handling more than seven tonnes of metal an hour.