Manchester set for Europe’s largest floating solar project

Installation has started today (26 October) on Europe's largest floating solar power system which will generate 2.7GWh of renewable, zero carbon energy each year on a reservoir near Manchester.

The 12,000-panel system is being developed by water giant United Utilities at the cost of £3.5m. The 45,500 sq.m project will float on the Godley reservoir in Hyde.

Chris Stubbs, head of renewable energy at United Utilities, said: “We have a target to generate 35% of our power requirements by 2020 and this project will make a significant contribution to that aim.

“As part of United Utilities energy strategy to generate more power we identified the Godley reservoir as a suitable site to install a floating solar array to provide the water treatment works with approximately 33% of its energy requirements.

“While floating solar has been deployed elsewhere around the world, most notably in Japan, it is a new technology to the UK. Installations, such as the Godley solar scheme, will help us to keep energy costs and water customers’ bills low.”

Once completed, the Godley site will dwarf the only other floating solar site in the UK – an 800-panel pilot scheme in Berkshire. Completion of the site will see it become the second biggest in the world behind a Japanese project.

United Utilities hopes to complete the installation by Christmas 2015. Completion at this time would make the system eligible for subsidies of almost 6p per kilowatt-hour (KWh). New Feed-in Tariff cuts could see such subsidies become unavailable to new applicants as early as January 2016.

Saving solar

The Feed-in Tariff cuts to renewable subsidies has been met with widespread resistance. The Solar Trade Association last week (22 October) announced a plan, met with cross-party support from MPs, to ‘save the solar industry’ by adding just £1 on to consumer bills.

British solar company Solarcentury has today backed the STA’s plan to add to consumer bills to generate the ‘absolute minimum’ £100m to support solar in the UK. Solarcentury argues that the government’s proposed £7m support fund for solar from January 2016 would subsidise Hinkley Point – thought to be the most expensive power station in the world – for just two days.

Solarcentury chief executive Frans van den Heuvel said: “The UK urgently needs to cut its carbon emissions yet the government wants to slash our investment in solar at the same time as the US, China and other large economies are embracing renewable technologies.

“These confusing policy signals are already damaging investor confidence, before the outcome of the proposal has even been announced; over a thousand jobs have been lost in the UK, and global players like Zep Solar and SunEdison are both pulling out of the UK market.”

Just a day after the STA launched its £1 plan, London Mayor Boris Johnson called for a gradual reduction to solar subsidies rather than the ‘cliff edge‘ cuts suggested by the Government, which will threaten more than 3000 jobs in London alone.

Matt Mace

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