Subsidy-free community solar farm completed in Devon

In yet another boost to the UK's subsidy-free solar market, Community Owned Renewable Energy Partners (CORE) and Yealm Community Energy (YCE) have announced that a 7.3MW community solar farm has come online.

Subsidy-free community solar farm completed in Devon

The 7.3MW Creacombe community solar farm. Image: CORE

The 7.3MW Creacombe community solar farm began construction in September 2019, with 4.4MW of the project’s capacity pre-accredited to receive subsidies through Feed-in Tariff scheme (FiT). The remaining 2.9MW was commissioned at the end of January and is subsidy-free.

CORE is a £50m investment programme funded by Power to Change and Big Society Capital – which acquired the solar farm last year. Over the operational lifetime, CORE’s portfolio of solar farms – which includes Newton Downs, acquired in partnership with YCE in late 2017 – is expected to generate more than £7m in surplus which will be refunnelled back into community investment, including the continued decarbonisation of the Yealm area.

YCE’s chair Peter Brown said: “It is over five years since Yealm Community Energy started to explore the idea of bringing a community solar farm to this part of Devon, and we are very pleased that Creacombe has been able to navigate the ‘solarcoaster’ and is now complete and generating power.

“Both solar farms will be able to generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of all the homes in our five local parishes helping to meet our net-zero commitments. Equally important, once we have completed the share offer so they are community-owned we expect to generate a healthy profit which will be spent locally to grow other exciting initiatives to tackle the climate crisis such as energy efficiency, electric vehicles and more green power generation.”

YCE will launch an investment offer in the summer for both the Creacombe and Newton Downs solar parks. Creacombe will be managed by Bright Renewables.

Sunny disposition

Following a plethora of cuts to subsidies and feed-in-tariffs (FITs), combined with the closure of Renewables Obligation (RO) applications in 2017, the outlook for the UK’s solar market looked bleak.

New solar power installations halved in the UK last year for the second year in a row, as the fallout of government subsidy cuts continued to shake the sector.

But several recent reports have concluded that the UK investment environment is beginning to settle as the market adapts to a new subsidy-free era for solar. Subsidy-free solar projects are “coming of age” according to Aurora Energy Research, thanks to the falling costs and flexibility of co-located battery storage technology, according to a new report which claims that more than 5GW of solar capacity could be deployed in the UK without subsidies by 2030.

In December 2019, A 40MW solar plant came online on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border, making it the largest subsidy-free facility of its kind in the UK. The solar plant, located in an airfield which has not been used regularly since World War Two, will cover the yearly electricity demand of around 15,000 homes and businesses in the local area.

The Staughton solar farm covers more than 353 acres, making it larger than the UK’s existing subsidy-free solar arrays. The nation’s first subsidy-free solar farm is located in Clayhill, Bedfordshire, while the second is co-located with Westcott Venture Business Park in Buckinghamshire. A further 5.4MWp facility – Hall Farm II – came online in Leicestershire in August.

Matt Mace

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