Image credit: Solarcentury
Utility-scale solar power was just getting started in the UK, when developments had the brakes put on by an unexpected review of Government feed-in tariffs to large-scale solar. Nevertheless there have been a slew of larger solar projects going up over the last few months, with a rush to get them up before the money stopped flowing. One of the latest may also be one of the coolest, as an abandoned tin mine becomes a 1.4MW solar plant providing clean energy to hundreds of homes.
Covering a 7.2acre plot at Wheal Jane, Truro, in Cornwall—in the South West of England—the 1.4MW plant is on the site of a disused tin mine. The developers' claim that it is the country's largest solar plant seems a little hard to justify, given Toyota's 4.1MW array at its UK hybrid factory, but nevertheless it is a huge undertaking for a country not familiar with large solar.
Derry Newman, CEO of Solarcentury, which partnered with developer Lightsource Energy on this project, points out that the choice of site is hugely symbolic:
"To see a tin mine diversify into producing 21st Century clean solar energy, provides an optimistic glimpse of where we're now heading for our energy production. Wheal Jane's solar farm demonstrates that solar technology can contribute to our clean energy future, and quickly. Solarcentury designed and constructed this site, powering over 400 homes, in less than two months. Solar is not to be underestimated; it is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, simply because it is clean, reliable and a readily available alternative to fossil fuels."
With the government review putting a stop to funding for such projects for some time, it looks unlikely that there will be many more like this in the UK for now. (Some prominent voices have argued that solar is not an appropriate technology for Britain's climate.) But as the full site is developed into the UK's first earth science park that will use renewable energy from solar, wind, hydro, shallow and deep geothermal sources, it should provide a useful benchmark for understanding how solar can fit in with other technologies for an integrated approach to clean energy.
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