UK utility-scale project developers return to market as pipeline grows to 7GW

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During the first two months of 2020, an additional 675MW of ground-mount large-scale solar farms has been added to the pipeline, taking the cumulative pipeline now to 7GW across a total of 345 sites.

Over the past few months, a number of developers that had been active during the UK’s ROC-based period have returned to the market, scoping new sites in the 40-60MW range. Almost every week, our analysis reveals an increase in the project developers hoping to benefit from the UK’s pending growth period for large-scale solar farms out to 2030.

This article discusses the current planning application trends in the UK for large-scale solar farms, in particular since the start of 2020, and outlines the topics set to be covered at the forthcoming Utility Solar Summit UK in London on 10-11 June 2020 (see here for more information).

The full list of 345 projects in the pipeline, including a full audit-trail and active partners of each site, can also be accessed through our monthly database report, UK Large-Scale Solar Farms: The Post-Subsidy Prospect List, with details on how to subscribe to this available here.

Pipeline growth to 7GW

At the end of 2019, the pipeline of proposed solar sites in the UK for large-scale solar farms reached 6.3GW, having added about 3GW during the prior 12 months. During January and February 2020, the number of new identified sites/projects has seen another huge upward tick, and has passed through the 7GW mark in the first few days of March 2020.

The latest site being added in the past 24 hours is another 60MW+ site in Wales from one of the more-successful pure-play developers of the former FiT/RoC days.

The monthly additions of new sites (screening and/or full planning applications) from the start of 2019 until the end of February 2020 is shown below.

More than 26 new sites have been added to the pipeline of large-scale projects in the UK since the start of 2020, with more than 700MW including the very latest new sites added at the start of March 2020.

New site sizes are increasingly at the 49.9 MWp-DC level (as expected from grid-connection regulations in England), with some larger sites emerging in Wales now. However, in contrast to the incentive-based deadlines that underpinned the build stages in the UK under FiTs and ROCs before, some developers are taking a much longer view for planning applications, out to 2023 and 2024 in some cases.

The evolution of the pipeline of utility-scale projects can be seen below.

The pipeline of planning utility-scale solar farms in the UK has been growing steadily during 2019 and 2020, and is now at the 7-GW-mark, double the value at the start of last year.

With about 10-15 new projects being captured each month, and the pipeline growing by about 300-400MW per month now, it is likely that the UK will have about 8GW of pipeline projects by the time serious build for 2020 starts in the next few months.

Indeed, it is now becoming clear that even UK politicians will soon be demanded to embrace renewables in a way not seen before. This change is happening at incredible speed now, and there are several issues that could change very quickly, to the benefit of new solar capacity additions (mainly from utility-scale).

This would only bring more developers and financial packages to the table, especially if a favourable landscape was to be envisaged over the next decade.

Finding where the new opportunity is for suppliers and investors

The continued investment in new sites (especially those will full planning applications, or where pre-build conditions are being discharged now) in 2020 is set to make the Utility Scale Solar UK event in June 2020 in London a must-attend event for all parties seeking to benefit from the revival of UK large-scale solar, post-subsidy.

This two-day event, organised by Solar Power Portal and the in-house market research team at Solar Media, is focused specifically on the commercial opportunities available in 2020 and the coming years from new large-scale solar farms being built in the UK. It is the only event that has this sole focus, and will see all key stakeholders coming together at the one time.

Sessions over the two days will be based on the following themes:

  • Developers driving multi-GW utility-scale pipelines today
  • Mega-solar (100-500 MW) sites (NSIP) under development
  • New advances in large-scale plant design & optimization
  • Site planning in the post-subsidy era
  • Making the numbers work; ROI & national energy need
  • Building, owning, operating, and asset-management challenges for new-builds
  • Identifying the project pipeline for 2020/2021

To get involved with the Utility Solar Summit UK event in June 2020, please contact us through the tabs on the event website here.