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127 kWp

solar panels installed


lower carbon emissions post-refurb

23 tonnes/yr of CO2

Saved through community solar

Community solar lights up Bristol Beacon

Willmott Dixon helped maximise renewable energy generation for UK's first carbon neutral venue.

Willmott Dixon’s £132m refurbishment of the Bristol Beacon has created one of the most iconic cultural landmarks in the South-West of England, with the aim to become the UK’s first carbon neutral venue by 2030.

The Beacon, completed in November 2023, boasts four new world-class performance spaces set to host over 800 events and generate an estimated £13 million annually. From the early stages of construction, the project embraced a community-funded approach to achieve net zero with Willmott Dixon bringing in the Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) to maximise renewable energy generation on the building.

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After discussions with Bristol City Council and Bristol Music Trust, Willmott Dixon worked with BEC to fund and install 348 solar panels on the roof – four times more solar than originally planned - transforming it from a 30kWp array to 127kWp. The electricity generated is sold to Bristol Music Trust, who run the venue, at a discounted rate then BEC shares the revenue between its investors and community benefit funds. The solar panels will provide enough renewable energy to reduce the venue’s carbon emissions by nearly 23 tonnes of CO2 annually.

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Enhancing performance of the grade II listed building was another key concern in helping the Beacon achieve net zero. Heating, cooling and ventilation is taken care of with a new, six-storey high steel-framed plant tower behind the main auditorium stage.

To achieve net zero by 2030, Willmott Dixon worked with the customer to develop a sustainability roadmap, addressing things like boiler efficiency, choosing green electricity and biogas, and replacing the venue’s diesel van with an electric one. The conditions of refurbishing a listed building prevented the addition of air-source heat pumps, so the building is heated by gas boilers and cooled by chillers. Combined with the carbon offset from the solar panels, carbon emissions are 54% better than before the refurbishment.

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Intended to inspire positive climate action from its artists and visitors, the Bristol Beacon is now looking at how it can reduce its scope 3 carbon impact from audience travel (62%) and supply chain (30%), which must reduce by 90% to fully decarbonise by the end of the decade. Moreover, the venue actively engages with artists to help meet its sustainability goals, encouraging them to reduce emissions from their travel and to choose green riders.

Louise Mitchell, chief executive of Bristol Music Trust, said: “Bristol Beacon is a symbol of hope and community in Bristol, and we believe passionately that we have a responsibility to deliver our programme of music and the arts in a way that gives thought to the environment. We want to be an environmentally inspiring venue for decades to come.”

Andy O’Brien, development director and co-founder of BEC, said: “The Beacon is a shining light for dark days and Bristol Energy Cooperative is incredibly proud to be part of the story. Helping power the venue through community energy sends a very strong message about connection. The transformation of this important landmark for Bristol shows how much we can gain from working together: whether that’s through a shared goal of becoming net zero or financial support for community spaces which receive support through BEC.”

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Community solar quadrupled renewable generation at Bristol Beacon