back in July 2011, British renewable energy pioneer Ecotricity launched a hybrid wind and solar power plant that was also said to be bee-friendly too. (The land between the solar arrays was converted to a native wildflower meadow.) Now the company is reporting that the Fen Farm solar park exceeded its generation targets for the first 12 months, despite a much poorer summer than expected:
Britain’s first large-scale solar farm has hit electricity generation targets for its first 12 months of operation – despite the dismal summer of 2012. Ecotricity’s Fen Farm Sun Park in Lincolnshire generated over 884,000 units of electricity in its first year from the 1MW installation that has 5,157 solar panels spread over 1.95 hectares. It has since passed the one million unit mark. The sun park generates enough electricity to power around 260 homes, saving 377 tonnes of CO₂; and complimented by a 16 MW windfarm, created Britain’s first hybrid energy park.
Yet while Ecotricity may be celebrating the achievements of this particular park, the numbers come as a somewhat bitter sweet reminder of what could have been. There was a brief dawn for utility-scale solar in Britain, but changes to UK feed-in tariffs meant that many large scale solar projects were scrapped or put on hold. And while even larger (32MW!) solar parks have been recently announced, these too are in a race against time before yet another review of Government subsidies kicks in.
And to the voices who criticize this fledgling industry's support from tax payers, Ecotricity owner Dale Vince had this to say:
“Last year every British household had £17 added to their annual energy bill to help build renewable energy infrastructure (including wind, solar, biomethane & hydro) which is now delivering 10% of Britain’s total electricity needs. By comparison every household also had £120 added to their energy bill simply due to rising cost of gas on the global energy markets. Unlike the renewable support, that extra £120 didn’t build any extra electricity generation, it just covered the cost of buying ever more expensive fossil fuels.”
It probably goes without saying that Mr Vince was one of the CEOs who recently demanded full transparency of all direct and indirect fossil fuel energy subsidies so that a debate about a "level playing field" can actually be had using meaningful numbers.