Gridserve buys UK's first subsidy-free solar farm to power EV forecourts

Gridserve has purchased the UK's first subsidy-free solar farm from developer Anesco as it works to bring more than 100 "electric forecourts" online across the nation.

Clayhill solar farm generates enough energy annually to power 2,500 homes. Image: Anesco 

Clayhill solar farm generates enough energy annually to power 2,500 homes. Image: Anesco 

The solar farm, in Clayhill, Bedfordshire, comprises 10MW of solar PV and 6MW of energy storage. It came online in September 2017 and was the first facility of its kind to be delivered without support from Government subsidy schemes, such as the Renewables Obligation (RO).

Developer Anesco exchanged with Gridserve late last week for an undisclosed sum. The firm will continue to provide operations and maintenance services for the site but has said it is seeking to sell off many of its assets in order to become a services provider.

Gridserve, meanwhile, is striving to create a portfolio of more than 100 UK-based “electric forecourts” – facilities combining renewable energy, battery storage and rapid chargers to meet the needs of electric vehicle (EV) drivers. These will be based at locations such as service stations, business parks and retail parks.

Work on the first Gridserve electric forecourt in Braintree, Essex, began earlier this year, meaning that the facility should be ready for public use by the end of 2020. Since then, Gridserve has received a multi-million-pound investment package from Hitachi Capital UK and has partnered with ChargePoint and Arup to deliver its projects.

Gridserve is aiming to meet the energy demands of its forecourts with 100% renewable energy – predominantly solar – through a mixture of onsite generation, co-location, purchasing arrays and using clean energy tariffs and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

"The addition of Clayhill to our portfolio - which marks Gridserve's first acquisition of an operational solar farm - will enable us to guarantee that the amount of energy used at our electric forecourt in Braintree has been generated from zero-carbon solar power," the firm’s chief commercial officer Jeremy Cross said.

"Our mission is to deliver sustainable energy and move the needle on climate change and this project will help us to support the UK's transition to net-zero transport in the earliest possible timeframes."  

The Department for Transport (DfT) is notably working to publish roadmaps this year detailing how “every single mode of transport” can be aligned with the UK’s transition to net-zero by 2050.

It’s electrifying

August 2020 has, so far, proven a busy time for EV-related announcements.

Nissan recently confirmed that it has installed the first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) chargers on its own estate, as part of a collaboration with organisations including E.ON, Northern Powergrid and the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO). It will use data from the 20 chargers to build the business case for V2G infrastructure in a range of business sectors, as it works to launch “smart” mobility services for commercial clients in the UK and other European markets.

Elsewhere, the first six EV charging stations funded by a £5.3m pot from the Scottish Government have come online at Strathclyde Country Park. More than 40 stations will come online across North and South Lanarkshire through to the end of 2020, with a further 140 due to be added to the network at a later date.

The Scottish Government’s partners for the initiative include SP Energy Networks, North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council. SP Energy Network’s chief operating officer Vicky Kelsall said the project “provides an incredible acceleration of electric transport in Lanarkshire to ensure no community is left behind.”

Finally, the SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT) – the UK’s first listed investment fund dedicated to energy efficiency – has agreed to buy 112 EV charging stations across the UK from Electric Vehicle Network (EVN) for a total of up to £50m.

EVN is still developing the charging stations and, once they are ready for construction, SEEIT will acquire them. They will then be leased to operators under 20-year agreements.

Aside from these 112 stations, EVN has plans to develop a further 380. SEEIT will have the right to first negotiations on these.

Sarah George



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