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10 November 2017

The largest solar power plant in the UK is to be developed without subsidy

Hive Energy, one of the biggest solar power developers in the UK, has announced its plans to develop a huge 350 MW solar park in Kent with zero subsidies from the UK government.

The proposed power project will be developed by Cleve Hill, a joint venture formed by Hive Energy and its partner Wirsol Energy, and it will be located on the north Kent coast.

It will constitute the UK’s largest solar farm by far, as the current biggest solar farm in 69MW in Wiltshire, able to supply electricity to 110,000 households.

The mega project will cover approximately 890 acres (365 hectares) - an area equivalent to more than 400 football pitches.

Battery storage is being considered for the project, as the electricity generated by a renewable energy power plant of this size will need balancing to avoid grid disruption.

The idea is that falling technology costs and economies of scale from supersizing power projects will make it able to work without any subsidies from the UK government, which halted subsidies for solar projects almost 2 years ago.

Hugh Brennan from Hive Energy said: “The Cleve Hill solar park is a pioneering scheme that aims to optimise the technological developments in solar energy”.

“Our ambition is to deliver the first non-subsidised renewables project of this scale, delivering low cost, clean, home-grown energy to power UK households”.

The 350MW solar project is the first one to be classified as a National Significant Infrastructure Project- a power project over 50MW, and will therefore need approval from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS).

The area where the power plant is to be developed has significant wildlife importance; the area’s salt marshes and mudflats are used by migrating birds.

The public consultation process has already begun, as residents have been asked for their opinion ahead of the meeting with the local community in December.

The Guardian reports that Adrian Oliver, owner of a cycling café in Graveney, said: “I think people are worried about the scale of it, and the infrastructure [roads] impact as it gets built.

“I don’t think anyone is anti the fact that it is a brilliant energy source. I’m broadly for it as long it’s done well and doesn’t disturb the wildlife”.

Max Wakefield, lead campaigner at environmental charity 10:10 said: “It’s a real ray of sunshine to see such ambitious clean energy projects emerging in the UK despite the policy obstacles. But the scale this project has had to adopt in order to be commercially viable is also a warning”.

The Solar Trade Association said that “Government policy of excluding solar from clean power auctions is driving larger projects in a bid to get the economics to work”.

If approved, the project is expected to be completed in 2020. 

The first subsidy-free renewable energy project in the UK, a 10MW solar power plant, was commissioned this September n Bedfordshire. 

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