BKS Energy, located on the Isle of Wight, has become one of the first in the country to achieve planning permission to build a solar farm. The permission has been granted by the IOW Council to allow for the construction of a 5MW PV park on a 20 acre site containing 21,000 solar panels.

The £10 million pound investment will be made by BKS Energy, which set up its own company when the directors became aware of a number of foreign investors approaching Island farmers to rent land to build PV parks.

BKS Energy worked quickly to research the feasibility of a PV park which would use local skills and manufacturers where possible. The company’s commitment to the project has led this to being the first PV farm to be granted planning permission on the Isle of Wight. Local interest will see some £3 million being invested with Island businesses as groundworks, transport and all infrastructure — except the panels and invertors, which will be Island sourced. The selected inverters are British.

As well as benefiting from locally-produced electricity, the Island will profit from the business rates generated from the site and, a local public building will be provided with a roof top PV array to provide savings for the community.

BKS Energy are well placed to talk to other people about solar development as their experience has brought together a team of developers, architects and financiers who have proven experience in developing roof top and ground mounted arrays.

Solar PV could become a more significant contributor to Island Green targets if Government incentives were to remain in place, however, due to the recent announcement of a review of the feed-in tariff scheme there is massive uncertainty within the industry.

BKS Energy is working hard to ensure they are in the best position to benefit from the significant investment made so far. Having planning permission in hand is just one factor; the company is also still negotiating with the electrical grid provider to obtain a connection date as they await an announcement on the feed-in tariff review from  the DECC, which should reinstate confidence to potential lenders.

The project could provide 3% of the targeted 150MW of electricity which is to be supplied by renewable energy on the Island. The 5MW supply will be fed directly to the local grid for distribution around Island homes and businesses.

The project is not visually intrusive nor does it rely on bringing biomass onto the Island as it will use the Islands sunlight to generate electricity for Island people. As the panels are only two meters high the field boundaries will screen the area. Grass will be grown beneath the panels where sheep can be grazed to ensure food production continues on the site. This ensures that agricultural production will continue and there is no food vs. fuel debate.

BKS Energy plan to work with local ecologists and maximise the wildlife benefit to the area by increasing the biodiversity. This will provide an interesting experiment to measure how wildlife adapts to land which will be farmed less intensively for the 25 year life of the panels. Keen to help children understand renewable energy solutions it is intended that school groups will be invited to visit the solar farm to learn from the development.

As oil prices continue to rise people will turn more and more to electricity for heat and fuel. Renewable generation has to continue to develop to enable electric cars to be charged and homes to be heated without causing more impact on our limited natural resources.

BKS Energy is lobbying the Island MP, Andrew Turner, and the DECC to ask them to ensure that the review allows this project to continue under the current funding structure. Under the current FiT scheme large scale PV arrays receive 30% less tariffs than roof top arrays as well as offering local jobs and business investment in addition to a reduction in carbon emissions. The proposed solar farm is too great an opportunity to ignore.

As the project develops, updates and pictures will be available on www.bksenergy.co.uk showing the build project as it progresses.

Public Consultation Documents are available here.