Toyota will be able to build 7,000 cars a year using solar energy at its factory in the UK.

The carmaker and British Gas have installed a new solar power system at the 90,000 sq m Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK plant, the largest by any vehicle manufacturer in the country.

Some 17,000 solar panels have the capacity to save 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, and realise an energy saving equivalent to 4.6m kWh – roughly the power needed to build 7,000 cars a year.

TMUK is one of Toyota’s five standard-bearing worldwide ‘eco-factories’ and is the production centre for the Auris hybrid.

Other energy-saving measures at the plant include a ‘brise soleil’, a sunshade of solar panels fitted above the windows, and a wall of solar glass to replace existing windows.

The new solar panel system cost around EUR11.4m (US$15.7m) and was manufactured in Britain. It was installed and paid for by British Gas, which is claiming the feed-in tariff – a UK government scheme designed to improve the uptake of solar power generation systems - under which owners are paid for the renewable electricity they produce.

TMUK, which operates the Burnaston facility, will benefit from the free renewable electricity generated.

Tony Walker, TMUK deputy managing director, said the launch is a further step in the company’s move towards low carbon and sustainable manufacturing. He added: “This development is a key part of our 'sustainable plant' vision in which our production facilities are designed to work in harmony with our local community and surrounding environment.”