Quinbrook acquires major 350MW UK solar-plus-storage site

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The 350MW Project Fortress gained development consent in May 2020. Image: pxhere

Investment manager Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners has acquired a 350MW solar-plus-storage site expected to be the largest single site PV install in the UK once completed.

The site – which has been renamed from Cleve Hill to Project Fortress – is to feature 150MW of battery storage with a two-hour duration, with this to provide critical support to improve security and reliability for the UK power grid, Quinbrook said.

Construction of the site is expected to start in H2 2022, having received consent from the UK energy secretary in May 2020. While most solar sites in the UK go through local planning, those above 50MW are considered Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP), and require national approval.

Project Fortress was the first ever solar project to be approved through the NSIP process, with Quinbrook claiming its size of 350MW is three times that of the UK’s next largest consented PV project.

Several other projects are now to go through the NSIP process, including BayWa r.e.’s 163MW solar project in South Derbyshire, which is to incorporate a 37.5MW battery energy storage system and is expected to go through the NSIP process in late 2022.

The £450 million Project Fortress was originally developed as a joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol, and faced significant public opposition as well as an attempt to get its development consent overturned. 

Rory Quinlan, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook, said: “The acute power price volatility and security of energy supply concerns we have seen in the UK these past weeks highlight how critical new capacity investment in the UK will be to deliver the energy transition without further disruption. We plan for Fortress to play its part in helping to improve energy independence for the UK.”

Indeed, power prices in the UK have hit record-breaking highs over recent weeks, placing greater emphasis on the need for domestic renewables to reduce the reliance on global gas prices.

Quinbrook is also planning on applying several innovations at Project Fortress for real-time measurement and reporting of carbon emissions in the UK power grid, and the 24/7 tracing and tracking of the renewable provenance of the power solar to the project’s offtaker.

The investment manager is to use advanced blockchain and other applications to deliver a complete carbon reporting service to assist customers with tracking progress against their net zero goals and their compliance obligations with TCFD and related carbon reporting.

Project Fortress follows Quinbrook’s Gemini solar and battery storage project in Nevada, US, which is currently under construction and consists of 690MW of solar PV and 380MW of battery storage. Developed by Quinbrook portfolio company Primergy Solar, the Gemini project is to cost US$1.1 billion.

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