First Solar and Belectric have started construction of one of the UK’s largest solar farms, a 46MW project in Oxfordshire.
The facility will consist of more than 483,000 of First Solar’s thin-film modules, with Belectric handling the construction and balance of systems requirements for the project.
The Oxfordshire solar farm is the fourth collaboration between the companies following the formation of a joint venture in 2013. In total, the companies' four UK solar projects now total 80MW of capacity.
Christopher Burghardt, vice president for Europe at First Solar said that the project was a “clear indication of the fact that dramatic efficiency gains and increased cost competitiveness” have created an “undeniable tipping point for solar power”. Burghardt continued: “There is no doubt that, thanks to the UK's renewable energy roadmap, solar PV will help reinforce the country's efforts to address its need for sustained energy independence.”
The solar farm is expected to generate around 45MWh of electricity every year which the developers claim is enough to power around a quarter of Oxford’s homes. The solar farm will continue to be used for grazing sheep after construction of the site completed.
“When we connect this project in the coming months, it will be the UK's largest and most technologically advanced solar energy plant, incorporating the latest innovations delivered by both Belectric and First Solar,” said Toddington Harper, CEO of Belectric UK. “To put it in context, this single project will produce enough secure, home-grown, solar energy to drive an electric vehicle over 200 million kilometres per year, or the equivalent of approximately 260 round trips to the moon. Combined with the fact that the land under the solar arrays will remain in agricultural use, with areas set aside to support biodiversity, this is a prime example of the multiple benefits that best-in-class solar farm projects can deliver to the UK.”
Environment minister, Elizabeth Truss recently said that solar farms were ‘wasting the productive potential of agricultural land’ and ‘blighting’ the countryside. Reacting to the minister’s comments, the industry criticised them for being “damaging and incorrect”.