Hive Energy plans for ‘subsidy free’ future with new solar farm application

Hive Energy has submitted plans for a new 40MW solar farm on land surrounding its offices in Hampshire, which is intended to be built without subsidy funding by 2020.

The proposed Woodington Farm solar park site in East Wellow near Romsey is comprised of two areas of land intersected by Smidmore Copse, totalling around 72 hectares. If approved, the development could produce enough electricity to power over 9,000 homes.

According to the planning statement issued by Hive Energy on 17 November, the site as a whole lies within the open countryside and currently comprises agricultural farmland set within a framework of fields bordered by hedgerows and trees. The company will use these features to conceal the solar farm from view, while also opening up the land to allow public access to surrounding woodland that previously has not been available.

Tim Purbrick, commercial director for Hive Energy, said: “In an area of limited accessibility to the land – which you might think surprising given that it is not far north of the New Forest National Park – we intend to open up the most of the boundaries of each part of the solar park to the public for walking and riding.”

Hive Energy says the location will be developed “with a view to a subsidy free build in 2018-20”. The plans are to go before Wellow Parish Council’s planning and general purposes committee at its next meeting at on 17 December before Test Valley Borough Council planning chiefs make a final decision by 16 February 2016.

It is unclear how the project will be funded in light of ongoing uncertainty in the solar market, but a combination of cheaper panel costs and higher electricity costs could be a factor.

Hive Energy has yet to comment on potential buyers for the power generated at Woodington however there is a connection to the national grid included in its plans for the site. The company’s head office is adjacent to the site, with a number of other industrial units located nearby.

The construction phase is expected to take approximately 16 weeks to complete, although this is subject to various factors including weather conditions. No details are included in Hive’s proposals regarding what progress will be made on the site between February 2016 and 2018 should the plans be approved.

Solar projects in other parts of the country, most notably in the south west, have had planning conditions imposed by DNOs which require firms to show progression throughout the project and meet deadlines including planning acceptance, breaking ground and energisation in order to keep any proposed grid connection active.