No, it’s not a joke: Canadian Solar has started ground-breaking on a mega-solar project in Scotland that will – all going to plan – be the largest solar installation north of Hadrian’s Wall, and will dwarf the other (mainly) sub-5MW sites being built now by a bunch of other UK- based developers.
Of course, Canadian Solar is not a developer in the true sense. Rather, the company allocates overseas activities budgets to acquire site rights (mostly in a shovel-ready state) in typical bidding wars that are common for sought-after solar projects.
In fact, while the site in question will be greater than every ground-mounted solar farm in operation right now across the whole of Scotland, it is just one of a number of solar farms that are now under construction in Scotland for completion by 31 March 2016.
In true British fashion, don’t expect any particularly enthusiastic responses from the mainstream press however, come April 2016. When the Jewel & Esk site was built outside Dalkeith a few years back, the local papers sent out their reporting team on the wettest and darkest day possible and got someone to stand with an umbrella between the rows of panels. When the Mackies site was built earlier this year, the television interview by the BBC just happened to be on a sunny day, only for the reporting to suggest this type of thing – namely the sun – does not come out very much in Scotland.
Perhaps though there is a story here that is unlikely to get covered: it took a foreign site developer, a Chinese company like Canadian Solar to see it through. Component supply is probably from China and from mainland Europe, and more than likely built with southern Europe low-cost sub-contractors that will come in and out in a flash.
It is hardly a great advert for Scotland flying the flag for renewables, and simply another indication of the role that subsidies out of Westminster have played in solar deployment well away from the south of England. (In some respect, there is a whole novel that could be written about Wales and solar that may follow that same narrative.)
Indeed, by 31 March 2016, solar deployment figures in Scotland are expected to see a massive uptick compared to present levels, but once again coming from overseas efforts driven largely by short term gains from highly professional developers.