Just before offices closed for the festive period, Cornwall Council gave the go-ahead to what will be one of Britain’s first large-scale solar farms. The 25-acre solar array, located on part of the Lanhydrock National Trust estate near Bodmin, is expected to power the nearby Restormel water treatment station, which is owned by South West Water.

This 5MW plant is one of many solar installations planned for the UK, plants which have been made possible by the introduction of the country’s feed-in tariff scheme. For an installation of this size, an investor will currently earn 29.3 pence per kilowatt hour generated for a period of 25 years.

Foresight Group, the British venture-capital firm, will pay for the Lanhydrock solar farm, which is expected to cost £10m-£12m to build. “We want to deploy the £40 million as quickly as possible to make full use of feed-in tariff at the highest level, which will possibly reduce from March 2012,” Foresight's Investment Manager, Giles Whitman explained.

“We will fully fund projects to lock in the tariff, then we will look to refinance to bring debt in.”

The development is being managed by Cornwall Power, which specialises in renewable energy projects in the county.

The majority of the money will come from a new fund aimed at small investors. The fund will close in July.

 “There has been a rush of interest in solar power since the tariffs were introduced in April. They will contribute 80%-90% of the revenue in this scheme,” said Jamie Richards, Chief Executive of Foresight.

Richards said Foresight and Cornwall Power were still negotiating with South West Water over whether the utility group will buy the power. “If not, it will go into the grid,” he said.