Plans submitted for 30MW solar project in Leicestershire

Lark Energy has recently submitted plans to Charnwood Borough Council for what will be the UK’s largest solar project. If planning permission is approved, construction on a 150-acre site near Loughborough, Leicestershire, will begin later this year.

Planning documents for the £35 million project show that Lark Energy hopes to install a 25-30MW solar park on Wymeswold Airfield. Approximately 125,000 solar panels will be placed between the runways on the former airfield and could generate enough renewable energy to power 6,000 homes.

Lark Energy’s Managing Director, Jonathan Selwyn, said: "This will be 25 to 30MW, so it will be quite big, but it will not be intrusive.

"Lark Energy has played a leading role in demonstrating how large-scale renewable energy can be deployed quickly, and with the support of the local community, to help the UK address its carbon reduction and energy security requirements.  Our plans for Wymeswold are further evidence that we remain committed to large scale solar projects in the UK and, that despite significant policy challenges, we see a bright future for the technology in this country.”

The project developers are confident that approval will be granted after Wymeswold Airfield locals greeted the news with a warm reception.

Charnwood Borough Councillor, Jenny Bokor, said: "I think this is a really good idea. There are 1,500 homes in all the Wolds villages and this could more than meet their needs.

"I am sure there will be some people who will object but I am in favour of making use of the land to create energy."

Wymeswold Parish Council chairman Nick Shaw said: "It won't make any noise or create any pollution."

Last August feed-in tariff payments for projects over 50kW were significantly reduced, with systems of 5MW now eligible for just 8.5p per kilowatt hour of renewable energy produced.

However, a project over 5MW, such as that proposed by Lark Energy, is not eligible for the feed-in tariff, and will instead receive incentive payments under the Renewable Obligation.

Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are green certificates issued by the Authority to operators of accredited renewable generating stations for the eligible renewable electricity they generate. At present, solar installations over 5MW are paid 2 ROCs for every megawatt hour of energy generated. ROCs are currently worth approximately £43 each. System generators are also paid an export tariff, and most often enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the local area, increasing the investment rate of return once more.

As the price of solar technology continues to decline in 2012, more large-scale solar developers are expected to take advantage of the ROC system. The Lark Energy project is the first to be announced this year.