UK’s first subsidy-free industrial solar project to power business park

A business park in Buckinghamshire is set to become the first facility of its kind in the UK to generate more solar than it requires, once the nation's first subsidy-free industrial solar installation is completed on the site.

It is anticipated that by installing a 15MWp solar array, Westcott Venture Park, in Aylesbury, will increase its current annual output of renewable power tenfold to 14.5GWh.

The move will enable the 76 businesses within the 650-acre industrial park to run on 100% renewable power with the array generating surplus energy that will be sold back to the grid.

The business park already hosts a 1.6MWp, 10-acre solar park, which was completed in 2011 and supported by Government subsidies. It has generated more than 11GWh to date, avoiding over 4,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

However, the new array is being installed without Government funding, following a plethora of cuts to subsidies and feed-in-tariffs (FITs), combined with the closure of Renewables Obligation (RO) applications last year.

The installation will be project-managed by solar specialist firm WolfeWare, which developed the existing solar plant at Westcott.

WolfWare’s founder Philip Wolfe said the project “demonstrates that solar power continues to close in on ‘grid parity’” – the level at which it competes with traditional electricity generation – even in post-subsidy Britain.

The new solar park, which is expected to be operated and maintained British Solar Renewables’ (BSR) operation and management arm, is set to come online in spring 2019. 

Solar saga

Government cuts to solar subsidies initially diminished the attractiveness of the UK’s renewable energy markets. Recent reports have concluded that the UK investment environment has settled in recent months as the market adapts to a new subsidy-free era for solar. For example, the nation ranked seventh in the latest bi-annual Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) from consultancy EY, up from 10th in the last index, to a position it last held in 2014.

Indeed, research suggests that Britain is on course for a subsidy-free renewables “revolution” that could add 18GW of new capacity by 2030 and attract £20bn of investment.

This potential has been partly attributed to the success of the country’s first subsidy-free solar farm, which was opened last September in Bedfordshire. Operated by Anesco, the 10MW farm in Clayhill is co-located with a 6MW battery storage facility and was developed after the RO subsidy scheme closed to new applicants. The solar farm is expected to deliver enough electricity to power around 2,500 homes and save 4,452 tonnes of carbon.

Sarah George

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