First Solar and Belectric UK collaboration closing in on 80MW of large-scale solar

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First Solar and Belectric have started construction of one of the UK’s largest solar farms, a 46MW project in Oxfordshire that will bring large-scale PV capacity deployed by the pair in the UK up to 80MW when completed.

The facility will consist of more than 483,000 of First Solar’s thin-film modules, with Belectric handling the construction and balance of systems requirements for the project.

The Oxfordshire solar farm is the fourth collaboration between the companies following the formation of a joint venture in 2013. The companies' four UK solar projects to date now total 80MW of capacity. The first three of those projects were all connected in June.

Christopher Burghardt, vice president for Europe at First Solar said that the project was a “clear indication of the fact that dramatic efficiency gains and increased cost competitiveness” have created an “undeniable tipping point for solar power”. Burghardt continued: “There is no doubt that, thanks to the UK's renewable energy roadmap, solar PV will help reinforce the country's efforts to address its need for sustained energy independence.”

The solar farm is expected to generate around 45MWh of electricity every year which the developers claim is enough to power around a quarter of Oxford’s homes. The solar farm will continue to be used for grazing sheep after construction of the site completed.

“When we connect this project in the coming months, it will be the UK's largest and most technologically advanced solar energy plant, incorporating the latest innovations delivered by both Belectric and First Solar,” said Toddington Harper, CEO of Belectric UK. “To put it in context, this single project will produce enough secure, home-grown, solar energy to drive an electric vehicle over 200 million kilometres per year, or the equivalent of approximately 260 round trips to the moon. Combined with the fact that the land under the solar arrays will remain in agricultural use, with areas set aside to support biodiversity, this is a prime example of the multiple benefits that best-in-class solar farm projects can deliver to the UK.”

First Solar was among the few companies in solar to welcome changes to support mechanisms for large-scale solar in the UK, with several UK developers mounting an ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge earlier in the year. The country’s government announced in early October that support for renewable energy projects would move from the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROCs) scheme to Contracts for Difference (CfD) next year, with funding coming from a centrally pooled budget that would see different energy generation technologies competing against each other. First Solar said the new approach was “an interesting opportunity for a more market orientated approach”.

This week, in reporting its third quarter financial results, First Solar dropped its full-year revenue guidance, based on delays to US projects, lowering it by US$100 million to a range of US$3.6 billion to US$3.9 billion.

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