26 September 2017

The UK commissioned its first subsidy-free solar power plant with battery storage

The first solar power plant in the UK to operate without any kind of government subsidy will be commissioned on Tuesday, sparking excitement among renewable energy enthusiasts who describe it as a tipping point for the industry.

The Clayhill Solar Farm constitutes a 10MW solar farm in Bedfordshire along with 6MW of battery storage, developed by the UK-based developer Anesco.

The company developed the project in partnership with asset management company Alcentra, without relying in any form of government scheme, like Contracts for Difference or Feed-in Tariffs, to subsidise the cost and increase the profitability of the plant.

The solar panels and the battery storage units were supplied by the Chinese manufacturer BYD, while Huawei supplied its ‘ground-breaking’ 1,500V inventers that have been used for the first time in Europe and are said to maximise power conversion.

One success element is said to be the fact that the new power project was built next to an existing solar project, near the town of Flitwick.

Analysts argue that locating new projects next to ones that already benefit from subsidy schemes is a crucial factor to drive down costs.

As reported by Financial Times, Peter Atherton, a consultant for Cornwall Energy commented: “That makes a big difference because obviously a lot of the common infrastructure you need is already in place”.

Another success element that drove the viability of the project up is that the solar panels are connected to giant batteries, which will store power and release it during peak demand, where electricity will be sold in a higher price.

More specifically, the 31,000 ground-mounted panels spread over 45 acres are co-located with five battery storage units, of 6MW total installed capacity.

Steve Shine OBE, Anesco’s Executive Chairman said: “For the solar industry, Clayhill is a landmark development and paves the way for a sustainable future, where subsidies are no longer needed or relied upon”.

“Importantly, it proves that the Government’s decision to withdraw subsidies doesn’t have to signal the end of solar as a commercially viable technology”.

 However, a spokesman from the Solar Trade Association (STA) commented that although the Association welcomed the Clayhill project, it believes that such projects are more likely to be the exception and that the industry still needs support from the Government.

The project will be inaugurated by Claire Perry MP, Minister for Climate Change & Industry who said: “The Government is determined to build on this success and our ambitious Clean Growth Strategy will ensure we continue to lead the world on the transition to a low carbon economy”.

Anesco plans on using the Clayhill scheme to provide services to the National Grid, which pays private electricity generators to help stabilise the grid by absorbing excess power when needed. 

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