Author: PV-Tech

Major proposed UK solar-plus-storage project revises scale upwards

Plans for Little Crow Solar Farm in the UK have edged closer this week on the back of developer INRG revising upwards the site’s planned capacity.

In January this year, INRG Solar revealed that it had earmarked the site, between British Steel’s works in Broughton and Scunthorpe, to develop a 120MW solar farm and a 50MW battery storage facility connected to the local 132kV network.

But having now progressed to a secondary stage of public consultation, the prospective site has been upscaled to incorporate 150MW of solar PV and 90MW of battery storage.

The site is one of two in the works in the UK that exceed the 50MW threshold for scrutiny from national planning authorities.

Further details have too been released as the plans have matured.

The site is expected to be developed within 11 months with all material delivery routes designed to avoid the nearby town of Broughton.

A comprehensive ecology plan has been put into place, with both bird and bat boxes, native hedgerows and areas designated for ground-nesting birds incorporated.

Interestingly, the site is expected to have a 35-year operational lifespan, representing a much wider trend towards project life expectancies across the board. Operational PV plants in the UK are now expected to continue generating electricity long beyond the 25 years forecasted during the first build-out period from 2011 onwards, and most are now expected to last between 30 and 40 years.

Over that 35 years, INRG expects the site to generate in excess of £15 million (US$19 million) worth of benefits for the local area through business rate payments, finance which could go towards local services.

INRG is now seeking additional thoughts on the proposals through the new consultation with a series of community events scheduled, starting this week. The second consultation phase is to run until 4 March 2019, ahead of a final Development Consent Order (DCO) application which is expected to be submitted in Q2 2019.

The developer’s statement of community consultation (SoCC), published on its website, indicates that construction is not expected to commence until early 2020, meaning it could be 2021 before the site is energised.  

Little Crow is not the only significant solar farm pursuing the significant infrastructure planning route, with Hive and Wirsol’s Cleve Hill Solar Farm also seeking a DCO.

Last month the joint venture submitted its application for DCO, confirming that plans for the project – which is now expected to cost in the region of £450 million (US$567 million) – had been altered to reduce the covered area following community consultations.

Having originally planned for something in the region of 1 million panels to be installed, Cleve Hill is now planning for around 880,000 modules.

Lightsource BP clinches 300MW PPA-backed UK solar pipeline

Prolific solar developer Lightsource BP is to deploy more than 300MW of utility-scale solar farms backed by power purchase agreements in the UK.

The farms are to supply power to a series of as yet unnamed corporate counterparties up and down the UK, with contracts having been finalised in the last few months.

Speaking to sister publication Solar Power Portal, Nick Boyle, chief executive at Lightsource BP, said that solar had been able to beat other forms of generation on price as technology prices have continued to slide.

“We’re now in a position where we’re able to take on other forms of electricity generation in PPA bidding, wind included, and win. Now that is a shocker in this country.”

Expanding on the position, Lightsource BP COO Kareen Boutonnat said the UK was emerging as a market leader for PPA structure innovation.

“I think we have some quite innovative PPA structures that are paving the way for other geographies. I think the UK market needs to be super-efficient, and as a result, we’re definitely pushing the boundaries in terms of PPA-type structures,” she said.

Lightsource BP has been among the early drivers in PPA-backed solar development in the UK, the most recent example being a 6.42MW solar farm connected via a private wire to a manufacturing facility in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, in August this year. 

HSBC to invest more than US$325 million in UK solar and wind

HSBC UK Pensions Scheme is to invest £250 million (US$329.9 million) in UK solar and wind farms under a new agreement with renewables investor Greencoat Capital.

The pledge, announced yesterday as part of Green Great Britain Week, will see the pension fund invest in operating solar and wind farms, with Greencoat responsible for identifying assets.

Russell Picot, chair of the trustee board at HSBC Bank Pension Trust, said: “Renewable energy infrastructure can provide attractive risk-adjusted returns for investors seeking predictable cash flows derived from real assets over the long term. The investment characteristics of inflation-linked assets such as these are well suited to provide the income required to meet our long-term pension liabilities.”

HSBC is no stranger to UK solar. The bank’s UK premises are powered by solar generated from the 61MW Swindon Solar Farm – amongst the UK’s largest – under a 15-year power purchase agreement via a sleeving arrangement.

Richard Nourse, managing partner at Greencoat Capital, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with one of the country’s largest pension funds, and helping to finance the implementation of the UK’s climate objectives.”

Solarcentury sells 80% stake in Spanish subsidy-free plant

British developer Solarcentury has sold an 80% stake in the 300MW Talayuela project in Spain.

The deal with German solar and wind power operator Encavis will see Solarcentury retain the remaining 20% share in the subsidy-free plant. Solarcentury will also oversee the management of the facility once it is operational. Grid connection is expected in the first half of 2020.

The plant has a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with what is described as a “highly creditworthy customer”.

“This is one of the largest and most powerful solar projects in Europe and is made all the more innovative by being built without subsidy,” said Frans van den Heuvel, CEO, Solarcentury. “The acquisition pays testament to the quality of our combined skills and to the strong and productive relationship we have with Encavis. Talayuela is concrete evidence of Solarcentury’s transition to a fully integrated platform that develops, builds and operates solar and storage assets,” he added.

Spain’s government has launched a tender programme but the bulk of the country’s forecast PV growth is expected to come from the PPA market.

“Spain is a perfect place to develop, build, maintain and operate subsidy-free solar projects due to its excellent irradiation. Talayuela Solar represents the biggest project for Solarcentury to date and is part of the company pipeline of almost 1GW in different projects and regions in Spain,” said José Miguel Ferrer, managing director, Solarcentury Iberia.

REDEN Solar completes refinancing to spur fresh acquisitions

The French independent power producer (IPP) REDEN Solar has refinanced the bulk of its domestic assets raising €270 million (US$312 million) in the process.

The company said a total of 92 loans with 17 banks and covering 150 projects had been consolidated.

“This cash surplus will be almost entirely dedicated to financing the acceleration of the Group’s growth, in particular through the purchase of plants and projects in France, Portugal and Chile,” said Vincent Wattignier, CFO, REDEN Solar.

“The quality of our historical assets and the confidence of our banking partners have enabled us to complete this transaction which not only greatly simplifies the debt structure and improves financial conditions, but also allows us to generate significant additional cash flow,” added Wattignier.

REDEN Solar was advised by Astris Finance and Linklaters.

Shell to become single off-taker of largest solar farm in England

Shell Energy Europe has signed an initial five year power purchase agreement (PPA) with British Solar Renewables (BSR) to take power generated at England’s largest solar farm at RAF Lyneham.

The utility will become the sole off-taker for the 69.8MW Bradenstoke solar power plant, which generates approximately 65GWh of clean solar energy on an annual basis following its completion in March 2015. It is the largest solar farm to have been developed in England and is second-largest in the UK only to the Welsh 72.2MW Shotwick site, which had been developed by BSR and is now owned by Foresight.

BSR, which manages and operates the site on behalf of owner Siem Europe, organised the deal in its capacity as manager of the solar farm utilising its past interactions with Shell to bring the deal together.

Speaking to PV Tech’s sister publication Solar Power Portal (SPP) ahead of today’s announcement, BSR’s managing director and chief financial officer Graham Harding explained: “As asset manager one of our obligations is on behalf of the owner to negotiate the PPAs on an ongoing basis so we’ve been exploring different opportunities in the market place.

“Shell is a relationship we’ve had in various forms for a while but this is the first major piece of work that we’ve transacted on with them. Siem as a group also has relationships with Shell … so it was a natural evolution of various discussions that were going on.”

The deal comes as Shell’s integrated energy marketing and trading company is seeking to grow its footprint in Europe’s renewable power market and is in line with the wider group’s strategy to develop a new energies business focused on new fuels and the power value chain. 

The power generated from the Bradenstoke solar power plant will be supplied to Shell Energy Europe’s customers in the UK seeking to meet their needs with renewable energy.

Jonathan McCloy, general manager for north-west Europe at Shell Energy Europe, said: “The UK is one of our key markets for power and we’ve been exploring ways to increase our power presence in the country on both the buy and sell side. The deal with BSR helps us achieve this goal and is a significant boost to our renewable power portfolio in the UK.”

SPP understands that the PPA could be extended beyond the current five-year arrangement should this be advantageous for both parties, with Harding stating that PPAs provide “stability in a volatile energy market”.

The deal with Shell allows BSR to grow its expertise in large scale PPA deals following agreements with HSBC for power from the 61MW Swindon Solar Farm – now owned by Rockfire – and UPM in relation to the 72.2MW Shotwick solar farm, which is now owned by Foresight.

“It’s something that we’re very keen to develop a skillset in; we’ve got some very skilled and knowledgeable people in order to negotiate what we hope are beneficial deals for both sides,” Harding added.

This month, Shell has signed an agreement to acquire a 43.83% interest stake in US solar developer Silicon Ranch Corporation and invested in Husk Power Systems, a developer of microgrids which is expanding its efforts in Asia and Africa.

UK developer plans 120MW subsidy-free project, with accompanying storage

A solar developer in the UK has revealed it is planning a 120MW solar array in the north of the country, the second such major project announced in recent months.

The Little Crow Solar Farm, earmarked for land adjacent to a steel works in Lincolnshire, will also boast a 50MW battery storage facility to help manage when electricity is distributed to the local grid.

INRG, the developer behind the plans, described them as “early stage” and plans to consult with local communities in the coming weeks.

Dubbed Little Crow Solar Farm, it is the second 100MW+ project to be revealed following in the wake of Hive Energy and Wirsol’s Cleve Hill Solar Park planned for the Kent coastal region.

Specific details surrounding Little Crow are scant, however it is planned for the project to connect to the local 132kVa electrical network that runs through the site.

For more on this story, visit out sister publication Solar Power Portal.

Foresight starts construction of 3.9MW unsubsidised solar farm in Murcia, Spain

London-headquartered investment firm Foresight Group has started construction of an unsubsidised solar project in the municipality of Las Torres de Cotillas, Murcia region, south east of Spain.

Torre de Cotillas 1 will stand at 3.9MW and forms part of a wider 18MW development in the south-eastern Spanish region. The plant is also Foresight’s second unsubsidized PV asset under construction in Iberia this year, following the completion of the acquisition of the 7.2MW Vale Matanças project in Portugal.

Spanish firm Solarig Global Services has developed the project and will build it on a turn-key basis, with grid-connection due in the first half of 2019.

Once operational, the project will deliver 7GWh of green electricity per year, which will be sold under a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with the utility Energya-VM, which Foresight claims to be the first of its kind in the solar industry. Energya-VM is part of the energy division of the Spanish corporation Grupo Villar Mir.

Carlos Rey, director at Foresight, said: “We are delighted to conclude this solid step in our strategy to develop a multi-megawatt portfolio in Southern Europe without regulatory support where revenues are derived purely from the sale of the power generated and delivered to private counterparts. The project sets an exciting new precedent in the Spanish solar industry as it is supported by a 10-year PPA at a fixed price. This proves Foresight’s capacity to deliver secured long-term revenues to our investors in an unsubsidized context.”

Wirsol to develop two PPA-backed, subsidy-free solar parks in Q1 2018

Solar EPC Wirsol Energy has acquired development rights for two UK-based, subsidy-free solar farms that it intends to develop in Q1 2018.

However the company has been quick to point out that while the two projects will be built without government subsidy, they are to be enabled through a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) which Wirsol is in the final stages of securing.

The two projects are the 7MW Outwood Solar Farm in Essex and the 9MW Trowse-Newton Solar Farm in Norfolk.

The two solar farms in question will start construction next month and form part of a 150MW subsidy-free portfolio comprising six specific projects to be developed by Wirsol over the next 12-18 months.

This is not including the longer-term play of Cleve Hill Solar Park, which Wirsol is developing alongside Hive Energy and stands to be by some distance the largest solar farm in the UK if it is developed at its planned size of 350MW.  

They will be financed through debt to be held within group, and Wirsol has also confirmed that the plants will be designed in such a way that storage can be retrofitted at a later date.

Earlier this year Wirsol said it was pursuing a pipeline of subsidy-free solar projects in the UK whilst simultaneously chasing a number of significant projects in Australia.

Peter Vest, managing director at Wirsol parent company Wircon, lauded the firm’s UK team for achieving “remarkable results”.

“We continue to focus on these key geographies as we rollout the solar projects and look to deploy additional technologies which are accretive to the fiscal returns of our global business. 

“Having recently secured additional group funding for specific geographies we now plan on capturing long term yields and optimising returns to our shareholders, key stake holders and partners,” Vest said.

EDF to develop 30GW of solar in France by 2035

The EDF Group, through its subsidiary EDF Energies Nouvelles, intends to develop and build 30GW of solar plants in France between 2020 to 2035 on top of its other worldwide commitments.

In statement launching the EDF Solar Power Plan, the firm said this capacity is four times greater than France’s current capacity, which as of 30 June 2017, stood at 7.4GW.

EDF’s plan is also expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in France during the construction period and the firm is targeting a “vigourous rate of expansion”. It will use its portfoilio of land assets to build solar near nuclear power plants. It will reconvert industrial wasteland or dismantled sites, or develop floating solar plants on hydroelectric sites. EDF will also be working together with the public authorities to identify suitable parcels of land for the construction of new solar facilities.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF chairman and chief executive, said: “The Solar Power Plan is of an unparalleled scale and marks a real turning point in EDF’s development of solar power capacity. It is a concrete illustration of the goals outlined in the Group’s CAP 2030 strategy, which was initiated in 2015 and aim to double the Group’s installed renewable energy capacity by 2030. EDF now has a new roadmap in renewables for the next fifteen years.”

Antoine Cahuzac, group executive director in charge of renewable energies and chairman-chief executive of EDF Energies Nouvelles, said: ”This effort comes in addition to our plans for expanding on wind and hydro capacity. It is a further sign of the Group’s commitment to the energy transition.”

The EDF Group is involved in supplying energy and services to approximately 37.1 million customers, of which 26.2 million in France. The Group generated consolidated sales of €71 billion in 2016.

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