Large-scale project strives to beat tariff cuts

Manchester-based law firm Heatons has completed the deal for the procurement of the solar project at Westcott Venture Park in Buckinghamshire. The client, Solon SE, is one of the largest manufacturers of solar modules in Europe, and will be responsible for the design, construction operation and maintenance of the plant, as well as the manufacture and delivery of the solar modules themselves. 

Work on the project, which received planning permission in November 2010, has already begun, with completion expected by June this year. Approximately 1,500 solar panels with a combined capacity of about 350kW will be installed on the former RAF airfield, which is now home to over 70 businesses occupying space from as little as 300 sq ft to over 30,000 sq ft. Further development phases are also in the pipeline, which would see the capacity increased to 1.2MW providing enough energy to power the entire park in the daytime.

By working to complete the construction before the August 1 deadline, the project will benefit from the higher feed-in tariff rates. Government is currently revising the rates for systems over 50kW, and it is expected that systems of the Westcott size will suffer significantly from the potential cuts.

Construction partner James Flynn, who specialises in the renewable energy sector, said, “This deal represents one of the few large-scale solar projects to go ahead in the UK following the Government’s publication of its plans to reduce the feed-in tariff for large-scale solar plants. It is fantastic that the parties involved have managed to continue with this project. We hope this will encourage others within the industry to follow suit, and that the project can be used as an example with which to encourage Government to change its attitude to large scale solar projects.

“At a time when many larger solar projects have been scrapped, this deal sends out the clear message that large European solar specialists like Solon remain dedicated to helping UK businesses develop renewable energy projects.”

Rod Mordey, Rockspring Head of UK Asset Management said, “This flagship project underlines Rockspring’s commitment to sustainability and will greatly assist with our long term goal of powering Westcott with 100% renewable energy.”

Philip Wolfe, Chairman of Ownergy said, “The occupiers of the Westcott Venture Park will be able to use the electricity we produce and so maximise the financial return for Rockspring. This is exactly the sort of project the feed-in tariffs were designed to support.”