Howard Croft: From Singing to Sustainability; Insight into Opera North’s solar panelled roof.

Posted Case study, News

In this month’s members case study, we shine a spotlight on Opera North, who through the installation of solar panels are further reducing their organisational carbon footprint, and contributing to our vision for a zero-carbon future for the creative and cultural sector of Leeds.  

We caught up with Howard Croft, Chorus Manager of Opera North, who oversaw the installation of 51 solar panels across two of Opera North’s buildings at the Howard Opera Centre on New Briggate in Leeds City Centre.  

Classically trained as a musician, Howard’s career took a detour into renewable technologies, before moving back into a musical career later and into his current role at Opera North. 

How much did this project cost? 

In total, around £20,000, paid back over 4 years. The modules will last for around 30 years, working at 80% original capacity for the first 25 years. After the 30-year mark, their capacity will reduce to 60-70%, so they have decades of significant energy production to come. Back in 2012, a generator half the size of this would have cost around £135,000, so the cost to install these technologies is thankfully significantly decreasing. 

What challenges did you encounter during the installation of the panels? 

It would be a different case now given the current climate, but at the time we didn’t have any supply challenges and the ordering process was easy. We did all the design work internally, which was approved by structural engineers. The only real challenge was light shading, as is the case with most solar installation projects. However, with the use of Solar Edge, we managed to design around this issue and every module in each solar panel is optimised to its absolute maximum performance.

Is there much maintenance involved? 

Nope! The panels are self cleaning and we can easily access them on the roof.

Have you been able to predict the impact already? 

Yes! We are looking at a minimum of 16,000k/Watt hours per annum, maybe more; from June to November 2022. The system has generated 7800kWh, enough to power the average home for 3 years. It has also saved around £2000 in electricity.

On occasion where the solar panels don’t meet with Opera North’s demand, especially in the winter months, energy is met by electricity from the National Grid on a 100% renewable tariff.

On a personal note, where did your interests in green energy begin? 

Now I have a young family, I wanted to reduce how much I was travelling.  After about 20 years of singing, I felt as if I had reached my limits and wanted more of a challenge. My route into renewable technologies started when I was offered the opportunity to go to Austria with a solar thermal company for a few days.  Returning to the UK, having loved the experience,  I was inspired to set up a solar thermal company. This opened up a plethora of opportunities, I obtained a qualification in heat turbines and I began installing heat pumps. With this new collected knowledge and experience, my career in green energy really took off.  

How did you find the leap from artist to business? 

After 20 years of being a freelance singer, you don’t often find yourself feeling scared or daunted by the unknown. At the end of the day, it’s just about having a go. I find myself looking for new opportunities to get outside my comfort zone, so when I found myself with an opportunity to invest in green energy; which was a relatively new industry, I was eager. 

As consumer demand grows towards sustainability and transparency between brands and customers, do you think business will turn to renewable energy more often? 

Absolutely! I believe it’s a really exciting time in renewable energy, we are looking at technologies where houses can generate all the electricity they need. The industry is coming more into the public psyche of what’s becoming more important to people, so the industry is growing significantly. Renewable energy and electricity is constantly changing, becoming cheaper and more pliable, with exciting innovations leading to cost and efficiency savings.  

If you want to see more about Opera North, then check out their socials below.

Instagram: @operanorth

Twitter: @Opera_North

Website: Opera North


From hosting enlightening workshops to rehoming unused resources, from equipping individuals with Carbon Literacy Training to partnering with local organisations for greener events, SAIL is taking the lead in West Yorkshire’s creative and cultural scene. But we’re not doing it alone. Our strength lies in our community, in the passionate and dedicated individuals and organisations committed to fostering a more sustainable future.

We’ve made a significant impact, but there’s still much to be done. We need you to join us on this journey. As a member of SAIL, you’ll not only gain access to our network and resources, but you’ll also play a vital role in driving the sustainability movement in our local creative and cultural industries.