Solar farms light up Cornwall

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Last week’s big switch on has turned Cornwall into the solar power capital of Britain.

Two solar photovoltaic parks, that are the largest installed under the Government Feed-in-Tariff scheme, went online in Cornwall last week making the County the solar capital of Great Britain.

The 1.4MW development at Wheal Jane near Truro and the 1.15MW park at Hendra Holiday Park are the largest arrays currently online in the UK and there are plans for work to start at the massive £14 million Kernow Solar Park later this year.

Britain’s fastest growing solar specialists EOS Energy worked round the clock to install 5,000 solar panels before midnight on Friday at the Hendra Holiday Park (near Newquay) so that they can be connected to the grid before the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) cut-off date.

Western Power have decreed that the photovoltaic panels had to be in place last week if they are to be connected to the grid before the Government cut-off date for existing Feed-in-Tariffs.

SolarCentury are the developers of the 5680 panel, 1.4MW Park on the site of the disused tin mine at Wheal Jane near Truro.

Under the FiT scheme, individuals or developers who generate power from solar – or other renewable sources – receive payments from their energy supplier based on how much energy they generate to off-set installation.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker announced a radical overhaul of the FiT earlier this year and the rates for larger installations are to be significantly cut under legislation currently being considered in the Commons. The cut off deadline for existing rates is midnight on 31st July.

The existing FiT for 100kW to 5MW solar arrays is 29.3 pence per kilowatt hour supplied to the grid. As of 31st July, the FiT for 250kW to 5MW projects will be cut to 8.5 pence.

Despite the cut in FiT payments some companies are planning to push ahead with large solar developments even though they will miss out on the deadline. Cornwall County Council has currently granted planning permission for 27 prospective solar parks.

Developers are hoping that the government will have a change of heart and announce a new subsidy scheme (called Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC)) later this year.

“We welcome that the Feed-in-Tariff scheme has been skewed in favour of domestic rather than commercial developments. Domestic arrays introduce renewable energy to more households and more individuals but we cannot support a capped system,” said Lee Summers, director of EOS Energy.

Conor McGuigan, of Lightsource Renewable Energy (LRE) who worked on the Wheal Jane development said: “While it’s been disappointing the Government has decided not to support the large scale solar sector going forward, the solar farms developed this summer will play a critical role in the supply of green energy in the UK, we look forward to helping owners develop solar projects from this point.”

Mr Summers added: “If Britain is to become an exemplar for solar in Europe then a few years of uncapped growth in the solar industry is what is required.

“Germany did not develop the largest solar industry in the world by imposing caps on the industry immediately. Even now they have a large growth corridor annually, before deciding at which level to impose the cap,” he said.

“A period of uncapped solar development would provide Britain with a reliable source of politically secure, safe, renewable energy for the next thirty years. Britain has very similar climatic conditions to Germany,” said Mr Summers.

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