One of the last big solar farms launches under Renewables Obligation

Developers of a new solar farm in Hampshire that reached completion this week have warned the site may be the last utility-scale solar park built in the UK for a long time, due to impending subsidy changes.

The Eveley Solar Farm project, led by renewable energy firms Primrose Solar and PS Renewables, will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 15,000 homes and save around 21,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Located in one of the sunniest parts of the UK, the 49MW installation was granted planning permission in July 2015 under the Renewables Obligation (RO) grace period rule and will shortly be accredited by the scheme which is set to be scrapped from start of next month.

Primrose Solar chief executive Giles Clark said: “We’re very pleased to have worked effectively with PS Renewables to complete work on what will probably be one of the last utility-scale solar farms to be built in the UK for some time.

“Last week the scientific community was left reeling in shock after data from NASA showed an unprecedented spike in global temperatures in February – a timely reminder of the need to decarbonise our energy supplies as quickly as possible.

PS Renewables commercial director Matt Hazell added: “Having constructed over 203 MW in the UK, this exciting project has been one of the most interesting we’ve ever built.

“At what we believe to be one of the largest ‘non-governmental’ private sites in the UK, Everley Solar Farm has been a dream to build over the last five months, having only started in October 2015.  The logistics on site we’ve managed incredibly well, and the local community were very supportive during the entire process.

“Overall it’s a great success story for the environment, PS Renewables, Primrose Solar and wider community.” 

Support system

The RO scheme introduced by the UK Government in 2002 to encourage the deployment of large-scale renewable electricity in Britain gradually became the main support system for renewable energy projects across the country.

But in June 2015, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd announced the scheme would be closed to new onshore wind projects from 1 April 2016, saying the Government wanted to help technologies stand on their own two feet, rather than encourage them to rely on public subsidies.

The decision has faced criticism from opposition parties and renewable energy experts who have said it could cost the UK up to £3bn in lost investments.

When the decision was first announced last summer, RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffrey commented: “People’s fuel bills will increase directly as a result of this Government’s actions. If Government was really serious about ending subsidy it should be working with industry to help us bring costs down, not slamming the door on the lowest cost option.”

The termination of the RO scheme is part of a transitional period in which future utility-scale projects will have to compete for funding through the Contract for Difference (CfD) scheme, although there remains an uncertainty over the future for the solar industry under the new arrangement. 

George Ogleby

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