FITs shambles forced developer behind world’s largest solar farm out of the UK
The company behind the world's largest solar PV farm looked at expanding into the UK before changes to renewable energy subsidies forced it to abandon the project.
First Solar’s director of customer relations, Tom Kosnik, speaking exclusively to edie energy at his company’s Sarnia solar farm in the Canadian province of Ontario said the UK was not right for renewable investment at the moment.
Founded in 1999 and based in the United States First Solar has spread across the world investing in a host of projects.
But Mr Kosnik explains First Solar initially invested heavily in Spain and now ‘doesn’t like to talk about that’.
He said: “We were then looking at the UK and there were a lot of positives to investing there, from a shared language to a growing solar PV market.
“But this was a few months ago and we then got wind of planned changes to the FIT and we had to forget about the UK.”
The UK’s loss is certainly the Canadian province of Ontario’s gain as First Solar has developed what is claimed to be the world’s largest solar farm.
At first glance Ontario might not seem a likely location for such a solar farm but a multi-million dollar investment, 80 megawatts through more than 1.3m panels says it is.
When edie visited the site early on a reasonably bright November morning it was still managing to hit the 6MW mark and Mr Kosnik was confident it would be higher when the sun was at its height.
He said: “It is cold here and it does snow but the sun shines… in fact it shines a lot more than it does in most of the UK.
“And even when it does snow it melts of the panels within a day and it also helps us to clean them, we’ve never had to clean the panels since we constructed it.”
The site itself finished construction on its first phase in 2009 which could generate up to 20MW.
Following swiftly behind the next year the next year saw the phase two add a total of 60MW to the scheme, which is managed on a day-to-day basis by Alberta based Enbridge.
Enbridge has traditionally had its roots in fossil fuels, but a drive to create a ‘neutral footprint’ has seen the business diversify into the renewables market.
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