UK developer plots 1GW of solar on retired coal sites

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The two PV projects are to utilise the grid connection points of Cottam Power Station (pictured) and West Burton A. Image: EDF

UK solar developer Island Green Power is to bring forward two solar PV projects totaling over 1GW on former coal power station sites in the UK.

The two projects, which are to have a capacity of 600MW and 480MW, will utilise existing grid connections points and names of the EDF-owned Cottam and West Burton A power stations, with Cottam having closed in 2019 and West Burton A to close this year.

Both sites are also to feature energy storage facilities. If consented, they would dwarf the existing consented UK mega projects, the largest of these being a 350MW site originally developed by a joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol before being acquired by Quinbrook earlier this week.

The size of the Cottam and West Burton projects mean they are to be classified as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP), requiring them to received development consent from the UK energy secretary rather than through the local planning process. Other UK projects classed as NSIPs include BayWa r.e.’s 163MW solar project , which is to incorporate a 37.5MW battery energy storage system and is expected to go through the NSIP process in late 2022.

Island Green’s announcement comes on the back of a rapidly growing pipeline of large-scale ground-mounted solar projects in the UK, according to Solar Media’s head of market research Finlay Colville, with a pipeline prior to the announcement of over 20GW. Indeed, there has been growing interest in developing mega-sized solar projects in recent years with consent at NSIP level, Colville added.

“Island Green’s activities in the UK solar market have been modest to date, mainly confined to selling consented sites that were subsequently built by the likes of SunEdison and Wirsol under the legacy RO scheme.

“Since subsidies were removed for UK solar builds, Island Green has been developing a handful of sites, mainly through the regular LPA routes and capped at 50MWp-dc. Therefore, the shift to planning at the GW-scale would be altogether new territory for Island Green in the UK, and in fact would almost dwarf the existing NSIP sites that have reached the public domain,” Colville added.

Island Green has delivered 14 solar projects across the UK and Republic of Ireland to date, and last year formed a joint venture with Foresight to develop a pipeline of nearly 700MW of greenfield solar projects.

Both Cottam and West Burton are to be split across several parcels of land, with this intended to reduce the impact on the local area in comparison to fewer larger sites. 

Construction of the projects is slated to start from 2024 onwards if consented, with the company currently preparing to launch a first phase of public consultation. This is to be followed by further environmental assessment and design work ahead of a second phase of consultation on more detailed proposals next year.

“Ultimately, several boxes will have to be ticked before this site combination comes to fruition,” Colville said. “For now however, it shows clearly the ambition permeating through UK solar developers and the hope that market forces will prevail in the UK, when the rhetoric from both the Conservative and Labour parties remains fixated on new offshore wind and nuclear sites over the next 5-10 years.”

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