Lightsource Solar Farm
Two NSIPs have reached individual milestones in development. Image: Lightsource bp

Two large-scale solar projects, Great North Road Solar Park and Botley West, have each passed individual goalposts in their journeys to beginning operations.

Both sites qualify as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) because they both surpass 50MW of generation capacity.

This means the planning and development process has additional steps and approvals, including the acquisition of a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the central government, as well as consent from local authorities.

Another UK solar NSIP, the 373MW Cleve Hill Solar Park, recently had the application for its on-site 150MW battery energy storage system (BESS) rejected at a local authority level by Swale Borough Council after residents protested the use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries on Wednesday (28 February).

Great North Road Solar Park

UK-based renewables developer Elements Green announced last week (27 February) that its 1GW solar park closed the first consultation stage after six weeks of community feedback and meetings started on 16 January.

The park, located northwest of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, will have an expected generation capacity of 800MWac.

Following this closure, Elements Green will carry out a second stage of community consultation, which is a statutory stage of consultation and is intended to give local communities the opportunity to comment on updated proposals.

The developer plans to carry out the second consultation stage towards the end of 2024 and will continue to engage with local councils, community groups and technical consultees.

The firm will also undertake further environmental assessments ahead of publishing a Preliminary Environmental Information Report, anticipated for Autumn 2024, ahead of the second stage of consultation.

Mark Noone, managing director for Great North Road Solar Park, said: “We are currently making amendments to the scheme, and the revised landscape masterplans will be circulated in the coming weeks.

“Our focus is on providing accurate and honest information to build an understanding of how Great North Road Solar Park can generate cheap, low carbon energy and bring benefits while minimising adverse impacts on the local environment and surrounding communities.”

Botley West

Botley West solar farm, currently being developed by Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), has received its response on the second consultation stage from the West Oxfordshire District Council.

The response has suggested further revisions to the site’s design and layout, which the council said could result in a reduced scale of the project but would help to minimise the magnitude and significance of effects on a sensitive environment.

The council did, however, also note that the cable run routes appear to be flexible, which means that less sensitive sites could potentially be swapped in to compensate for reduced development in sensitive areas.

The proposals for the Botley West Solar Farm had already been updated since the initial round of consultation that was held between November and December 2022.

The proposed development site covers an area of 1,300 hectares, and the proposed area of installed panels (excluding internal roads and support areas) is approximately 890 hectares. This is a reduction in the total site area from the initial consultation, which covered a total area of 1,400 hectares with 1,000 hectares of panels and other types of infrastructure.

PVDP has also confirmed that it secured a grid connection with the National Grid to provide 840MW of energy to the grid, which would be generated across three sites, only one of which lies in the West Oxfordshire District Council’s remit.

The other two are located across the Cherwell District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council’s regions.