Solarcentury connects UK's largest solar system to national grid
Aug 5, 2011 - Chris Whitmore - pv-tech.org
Solarcentury has broken new ground in the UK solar industry by connecting the nation’s largest solar system to the grid. The 748kW array is comprised of over 3,000 panels and will produce enough electricity to power one-quarter of the Oxfordshire business park in which it is located.
The Howbery business park system will generate 682MWh of electricity a year and, by virtue of connecting to the grid before August 1st, it benefits from the current feed-in tariff rate for large-scale projects of 29.3p per kilowatt hour.
“The solar at Howbery Business Park provides a glimpse of how this technology can contribute to our clean energy future, hinting at the serious role solar power can play in our energy mix,” said Derry Newman, chief executive of Solarcentury. “It’s fantastic that such a progressive and world class R&D centre continues to lead the way, now powered by 21st Century energy.”
Although Howberry is the biggest completed system to date in the UK, it is dwarfed in size by countless numbers of PV plants on the continent, and this situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future thanks the Government’s decision to slash solar subsidies for systems in excess of 50kW.
"This means that virtually all investors have withdrawn from financing such developments," Newman added. "There were probably many hundreds lined up for development across the country. They're pretty much all cancelled now because of the fast track review. This type of installation will be a relative rarity for a few years."
However, Newman remains optimistic about solar’s future in the UK. "They will come back because tariffs and subsidies for solar are a necessary device to create the industry right now but the rate of change of price of solar is on a strong downward trend," he said. "Within a few years, the amount of subsidy needed will go down significantly. When that happens, more of these can happen with less cost and become more attractive to investors."
Engineering, procurement and construction work on the record-breaking system was carried out by Solarcentury, with funding coming from Octopus Investments and local private investor Andrew Troup.