Anesco unveils UK’s first subsidy-free farm

Renewable energy developer Anesco has today (26 September) heralded a "landmark" achievement with the launch of the UK's first solar farm to operate without a Government subsidy.

The 10MW farm in Clayhill, Bedfordshire, co-located with a 6MW battery storage facility, will deliver enough electricity to power around 2,500 homes and save 4,452 tonnes of carbon. The site was constructed in 12 weeks over the summer, making it ineligible for the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme.

Anesco’s executive chairman Steve Shine commented on how the company developed the project without the need for a subsidy, saying: “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.

He added: “We sought the views of our supply chain and with them looked at every aspect of the project – its design, the technical specifications, the use of the very latest technology and the costs of the various components. By deciding to co-locate the 6MW battery storage unit and by working closely with our supply chain partners, we have been able to achieve a subsidy-free development.”

Solar saga

The project includes solar panels and five battery storage units supplied by Chinese manufacturer BYD and Huawei delivered 1500v solar invertors, the first time the technology has been deployed in Europe.

The launch will help Anesco realise its plan to have the largest portfolio of energy storage in the UK set up and running by the end of next year, after announcing proposals to bring 185MW of energy onto the grid.

Recent Government cuts to solar subsidies have diminished the attractiveness of the UK’s renewable energy markets. Renewables installations have largely ground to a halt and more than ten thousand jobs have been lost in the UK solar sector.

But with solar prices consistently plummeting and the technology already the cheapest form of electricity in many situation, some industry experts are hopeful that projects will be capable of being built without a direct subsidy.

Climate Change Minister Claire Perry, who officially opened the Clayhill project today, said: “The cost of solar panels and batteries has fallen dramatically over the past few years, and this first subsidy-free development at Clayhill is a significant moment for clean energy in the UK.

“Solar panels already provide enough electricity to power 2.7 million homes with 99% of that capacity installed since 2010.  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.”

George Ogleby

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