Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britain is not well known for the kind of massive-scale solar energy parks we've begun to see being built elsewhere. Nevertheless, with the introduction of feed-in tariffs, bigger solar energy parks (we're typically talking 1 - 5MW) did start appearing until the government slashed the subsidy rates for larger suppliers, prompting some to predict the end of big solar in Britain.
In a bizarre twist, however, some have argued that the lower subsidy rates would lead to bigger projects by favoring economies of scale, and encouraging developers to apply for ROCs (Renewable Obligations Credits) which encourage utilities to purchase renewables by the megawatt.Now Solarcentury and Lightsource Renewable Energy Limited have just completed a 5MW utility-scale solar installation at a waste treatment plant in Waterbreach, Cambridgeshire.
Interestingly, the plant is set up to prioritize energy use by the waste water treatment plant, rather than feeding energy directly into the grid, as Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury explained:
“Unlike most utility scale ground mounted solar plants in the country, this solar plant prioritises the use of electricity by AmeyCespa’s facilities first, with minimal excess energy being fed back into the national grid. We expect to see many more commercial projects of this nature in the future as organisations become increasingly aware of fixed, low cost solar power.”
Lightsource then sells this energy to the treatment plant owner through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 25 years. The developers claim that this method of energy supply significantly benefits high electricity users like AmeyCespa, not only by cutting costs, but also providing better control and predictability on budget forecasting.