Ground-breaking solar park trumps previous record

UK-based solar developer Lightsource Renewable Energy has today connected the UK’s largest solar installation to the national grid. At 1.4MW the project is also the first to be completed in the South West of the country, where the majority of large-scale plants are set to go ahead.

Located on the site of a disused tin mine, the 1.4 MW farm covers a 7.2acre plot at Wheal Jane, Truro, and is the first of many renewable energy projects planned at the reclaimed mine. The farm’s 5,680 solar panels will generate a total of 1,437MWh of electricity a year, which is enough to power the equivalent of 430 homes in the area and save over 737 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

For the construction of Wheal Jane solar farm, local contractors were employed to carry out the work, preparing the land, supplying fencing and installing the solar panels. Lightsource Renewable Energy also worked with Solarcentury, the UK’s most experienced solar energy company, to deliver the solar farm, which was funded by Octopus Investments.

Conor McGuigan, Head of Planning, Lightsource Renewable Energy said, “It’s fantastic to see our first solar farm in the South West operational. It’s been a race against the clock to get it connected to the grid by the end of the month. Cornwall Council, Western Power Distribution, Wheal Jane Group, 35 Degrees, Solarcentury and the local suppliers have all played a significant role in making this happen.”

Although this project is now complete, it is expected to be among only a few that will go ahead in the UK. Government’s feed-in tariff changes for systems larger than 50kW mean that ground-mounted solar parks installed up until August 1 will be the last unless the incentive policy is reviewed.

“While it’s been disappointing that the Government has decided not to support the large scale solar sector going forward, the solar farms developed this summer will play a critical role in the supply of green energy in the UK. We look forward to helping building owners develop solar projects from this point,” continued McGuigan.

Derry Newman, CEO, Solarcentury said, “To see a tin mine diversify into producing 21st Century clean solar energy, provides an optimistic glimpse of where we’re now heading for our energy production. Wheal Jane’s solar farm demonstrates that solar technology can contribute to our clean energy future, and quickly.  Solarcentury designed and constructed this site, powering over 400 homes, in less than two months.  Solar is not to be underestimated; it is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, simply because it is clean, reliable and a readily available alternative tofossil fuels.”

Julian German, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for the Environment said, “It’s great to see the UK’s biggest solar farm opening in Cornwall where we are well placed to take advantage of the significant potential of solar power. Wheal Jane solar farm demonstrates how these developments have been sensitively sited, maintaining the balance of our need for clean energy and maintaining our landscape. Despite the Government’s change in policy on Feed-in tariffs, we are determined to ensure that solar energy brings great benefits to businesses and communities throughout Cornwall. Those with roof space for solar should see it as not only as helping to contribute to our clean energy future but a rewarding investment.”

This is the second of Solarcentury’s large-scale solar parks to reach completion in the UK. The company announced on June 27 that its 748kW system in Oxfordshire was up-and-running.