UK experiencing solar boom with raft of 100MW+ PV projects in planning phase

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A solar project from NextEnergy Capital in the UK. Image: NextEnergy Capital.

A flurry of plans submitted for solar projects in excess of 100MW+ is fuelling a boom of activity in the UK utility-scale solar market.

Over the past year or so, a swathe of new solar projects have been announced that exceed the 50MW threshold that constitutes a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) in the UK. NSIPs require consent from the country’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

These include a 165MW solar and energy storage project near Ashford in Kent, a 350MW joint venture between Windel Energy and Canadian Solar dubbed Mallard Pass Solar Farm and a 500MW solar and energy storage park in Lincolnshire, all of which have been covered extensively on sister publication Solar Power Portal.

Moreover, utilities EDP Renewables and Centrica Business Solutions have committed to greater solar deployment in the UK. Spanish EDP Renewables is planning to invest £660 million (US$895 million) in the UK over the next five years and £12.86 billion (US$17.45 billion) by 2030, while energy giant Centrica is targeting a 650MW portfolio of solar farms by 2026.

The boom in activity is being led by both new entrants Canadian Solar’s involvement in early stage NSIP planned solar farms in the UK is an interesting development in the country’s industry, said Finlay Colville, head of market research at Solar Media.

The news about the Mallard Pass project comes “at a time when Canadian Solar is going through a significant corporate change,” said Colville.

“The company is soon to split out its manufacturing operations into an entity to be called CSI Solar that will be listed in China. The projects business (possibly excluding Chinese project investments) will then remain within the ‘new’ Canadian Solar. This now offers the context for the current plans in the UK, both at Mallard and across other smaller sites,” he said.

Early this year, Colville revealed the UK’s utility-scale solar pipeline to stand “well in excess of 15GW”, with a number if projects having reached shovel-ready status. Solar Media’s in-house market research team, which Colville leads, continues to track the UK’s utility-scale solar pipeline and development activity via its market research reports, more information on which can be found here.

The UK has committed to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, in its latest NDC to the UN.

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