Work has started on a solar energy project which could generate approximately 70% of the electricity used at Zurich’s Isle of Man HQ, and has the potential to also provide power for charging electric vehicles.

Zurich offers life insurance, investment, and protection solutions to support customers across the world.

Building work on the project – at Zurich House, Isle of Man Business Park – starts with a steel frame being erected at an existing car park and car port, followed by the installation of solar panels.

It’s the biggest project of its type in the island and the solar energy system is expected to be built, tested and operational before the end of May.

Facilities manager at Zurich Isle of Man Jason Buckley recently welcomed representatives from island contractors Ardern & Druggan to mark the start of building work.

Chair of the island’s Climate Change Transformation Board Daphne Caine was also there and ‘very pleased’ to see the project making progress and was looking forward to it being operational later this year.

She said Zurich’s major commitment to harnessing renewable energy, and ensuring a sustainable future for its Isle of Man headquarters, will help the island to meet its climate change goals.

Zurich has chosen to work with Douglas business Ardern & Druggan to install the latest photovoltaic cell technology with the capacity to generate over 200 kilowatts (200,000 watts) of electricity – enough to power 2,000 100watt lightbulbs.

The solar panels project is being jointly funded by Zurich on the Isle of Man and the Zurich Carbon Fund which is part of Zurich Insurance Group’s sustainability commitment.

In 2019, Zurich became the first insurer in the world to sign up to the UN’s 1.5 Celsius Business Ambition.

Since then the group has created a Sustainability Leadership Council (SLC) and a 1.5 Task Force.

The Zurich House solar power project aims to build on the company’s many achievements here on the island to reduce waste and save energy.

That includes the opening in 2018 of Zurich House which is one of only a handful of buildings here that are BREEAM accredited. BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for master planning projects.

Meanwhile, Zurich is also supporting a new initiative to help the island achieve its climate change commitments.

The Energy and Sustainability Centre (ESC) is an independent, not-for-profit, Isle of Man charity led by earth scientist and chair of the Manx Geological Survey Dave Quirk, former MHK Ralph Peake and environmental specialist John Boucher, who has a Master’s degree in sustainable energy.

Dr Quirk thanked Zurich for their support, and went on to explain the mission and vision behind ESC’s ‘empowering a green future’ motto.

He said: ‘The climate crisis creates both global and local challenges. There is widespread public support for the government’s 2050 net-zero targets.

‘ESC welcomes the government’s view that the private and public sectors, and the wider community, must work together to achieve those targets.

‘On the way to 2050, there are many important choices and decisions to make about technological, regulatory, planning and finance options.

‘ESC – with our Manx background and a wealth of scientific and energy industry experience – aims to play a part in providing information and objective advice to support people in making the right choices.

‘For example, there are steps which can be taken now which will reduce energy costs immediately whilst it is probably best to wait with others until the direction the Isle of Man takes with power supply is determined.’

One of the ways ESC will do this is through educational, animated video films.