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Wirsol’s subsidy-free solar parks in UK likely to be battery-ready

Wirsol's 21MW Luckau solar farm in Germany. Image: Wirsol.

German renewables company Wirsol has tabled plans for two subsidy-free ground-mounted solar parks in the UK, for which energy storage is expected to be included in “phase two of the build-out”.

 Our UK sister site Solar Power Portal reported this morning that the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm has acquired development rights for a 9MW plant and a 7MW one, both in the East of England.

The company has been quick to point out that while the two projects will be built without government subsidy, they are to be enabled through a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) which Wirsol is in the final stages of securing. They will be financed through debt to be held within group and are intended to begin development in Q1 2018.

Wirsol confirmed to Solar Power Portal that the plants will be designed in such a way that storage can be retrofitted at a later date. Managing director Mark Hogan said that storage would only be added once the economics and warranties matched the company’s investment criteria.

“We are close but not there yet and as such storage will be phase two of the project build out.  The UK and its energy market form a key cornerstone of the Wirsol business under my responsibility, along with Australia where we already have a market leading position with 400MWp under construction and a further 470MWp in development for rollout before 2020,” he added.

Earlier this year Wirsol said it was pursuing a pipeline of subsidy-free solar projects in the UK, simultaneously chasing a number of significant projects in Australia, where it opened an office in March, taking over some of its UK staff.

The two solar farms in question will start construction next month and form part of a 150MW subsidy-free portfolio comprising six specific projects to be developed by Wirsol over the next 12-18 months.

Early plans for single 350MW plant with grid-balancing battery storage

In November, Solar Power Portal also reported that the German EPC and UK developer Hive Energy are jointly pushing forward with ambitious plans for a huge solar farm on the north Kent coast, south-east of London, which could have a final generation capacity in excess of 350MW. The design is also expected to incorporate battery energy storage, which will be used to deliver grid-balancing services.

The development duo has formed the SPV Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd to advance the project. Cleve Hill Solar Park will also be designed differently to standard solar farms in the UK to provide the maximum amount of electricity. Panels are to be orientated in an east-to-west fashion, rather than south-facing, and will also be mounted at a shallower angle than usual to produce a more consistent generation curve.

As with any new utility-scale solar farm in the UK, the project is go ahead without any subsidy support from the government. Hive stressed that plans are still at early stages, with community consultations already underway and further consultations taking place this month.

Due to its significant size, Cleve Hill stands to be the first solar power plant in the UK to be deemed as a National Significant Infrastructure Project. It will therefore require approval from Greg Clarke, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, by means of a development consent order (DCO).

Additional reporting by Andy Colthorpe.

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