Investor planning to build 75MW solar farm in South Wales and another 50MW project in Worcestershire, as industry awaits imminent final decision on 350MW Cleve Hill solar project
UK subsidy-free solar power looks to be going from strength-to-strength, with NextEnergy Capital having today announced £100m financing to construct two major solar projects in South Wales and Worcestershire.
The UK-based solar investor said the funds would go towards building a 75MW solar farm in Llanwern, South Wales, as well as another 50MW facility in Strensham, Worcestershire. The £100m funding package consists of non-recourse debt financing from Spanish banking giant Santander, it explained.
NextEnergy (NEC Group) said electricity generated from the two projects would be contracted via corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs), and that it expected both to be connected to the grid towards the end of this year. Once constructed, the two solar farms could be worth more than £60m, it estimated.
The Llanwern project is "not only the largest subsidy-free plant but also the largest solar farm in the UK to date", according to the firm.
"NEC Group's mission is to generate a more sustainable future by leading the transition to clean energy and these assets underline our wherewithal to pursue and deliver on it," said NextEnergy CEO and founding partner Michael Bonte-Friedheim. "The ability for NEC to work with its partner Santander to implement this transaction considering the extremely challenging backdrop of Covid-19 lockdown shows the strength and depth of the teams involved, coupled with the resilience of solar as an asset class in these times."
Meanwhile, the UK's subsidy-free solar market is bracing itself for further development news over the coming days, as solar industry players await final government approval of a record-breaking solar project planned for the north Kent coast, anticipated for this week.
The proposed mammoth 350MW Cleves Hill solar project in Kent would see 800,000 panels erected across 900 acres of farmland roughly three miles west of Whitstable. The farm, which is set to be the UK's largest commercial plant, would also comprise one of the world's largest battery storage facilities.
The farm would be able to power some 91,000 homes, according to joint developers, the UK's Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy, a unit of German company Wirsol, and could bring £27.25m of investment to local authorities in the next 25 years.
However, local politicians, activists and environmentalists, have raised concerns that the battery storage facility is a fire and explosion risk and that the project could damage local ecosystems, and due to the size of the project, planning consent was called in by the government for a final decision.
In a bid to mitigate concerns and secure support for the project, developers have promised to plant 3.5km of hedgerows to reduce views of the site and establish a 138 acre 'Habitat Management Area' to benefit local bird species. Plans also include maintaining lowland meadow important for bees.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is expected to announce its decision on whether to give the green light to the project by the end of May, as a three-month window following the submission of the planning inspectorates recommendation in late February draws to a close.
Cleve Hill Solar Park was the first in the UK to be classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, due to its large capacity.
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