After 18 months of a lot of noise and discussion by solar developers, it is clear that the development of large-scale solar is once again economically viable. Instead of going into the specifics of why they are again viable, it is more appropriate to cover why some sites will be of interest and others won’t.
There are three parts of the jigsaw to make a solar development work; land rights, the grid connection and planning. Developers in the large-scale solar industry normally build a development to sell to a funder who will then own the asset for its operational life. To keep things simple, we need to view the funder as the end-customer of the solar farm. The funder will have agreed an end value with the developer based on a price per mega-watt (MW) once it is fully operational.
Whilst there are some economies of scale involved in the construction of very large scale solar, the main costs that will determine the viability of a site are rights over land, the grid connection and planning. For example, it is feasible for a site to have planning and for land rights to be agreed with the landowner but a project cannot progress due to the grid connection costs being too high.
For your land to be viable, it needs to be close to infrastructure that has spare generation capacity. For example, if you are going to connect into a 132 kilovolt (kV) network (large metal towers), the minimum grid cost will be £2,500,000, meaning the solar farm will need to be a minimum of 250 acres to be viable. Smaller 33kV connections (large wooden poles or small metal towers) can give smaller sites where planning is easier to obtain, but grid capacity at that voltage is much harder to come by. In addition, the site needs to have a reasonable chance of achieving planning, i.e. there are no flooding issues or heritage sites that could be affected. Expected rental values to be achieved by the landowner also need to be realistic.
In summary, solar development is not an easy process and partnering with a proactive developer is critical in progressing projects. If you think your land may be of interest for large-scale solar then we will more than happily assess a site to look at its potential for solar development.