Solarcentury connects UK’s largest ground-mounted PV system to national grid

Solarcentury has broken new ground in the UK solar industry by connecting the nation’s largest solar system to the grid. The 748kW ground-mounted array, located in Wallingford, Oxfordshire is comprised of over 3,000 panels and will produce enough electricity to power one-quarter of the business park in which it is located.

The Howbery business park system will generate 682MWh of electricity a year and, by virtue of connecting to the grid before August 1st, it also benefits from the current feed-in tariff rate for large-scale projects of 29.3p per kilowatt hour. Engineering, procurement and construction work on the record-breaking system was carried out by Solarcentury, with funding coming courtesy of Octopus Investments and local private investor Andrew Troup.

“The solar at Howbery Business Park provides a glimpse of how this technology can contribute to our clean energy future, hinting at the serious role solar power can play in our energy mix,” said Derry Newman, chief executive of Solarcentury. “It’s fantastic that such a progressive and world class R&D centre continues to lead the way, now powered by 21st Century energy.”

Andrew Troup, Investor said, ”The local community has been critically important in making this solar park a reality. It’s only been possible to meet theinstallation deadline because of the support from Wallingford Town Council and Crowmarsh Parish Council and the cooperation and efficiency of South Oxfordshire District Council and the District Network operator, SSE. The support has been widespread”

Although Howberry is the biggest completed system to date in the UK, it is dwarfed in size by countless numbers of PV plants on the continent, and this situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future thanks the Government’s decision to slash solar subsidies for systems in excess of 50kW. The controversial legislation is also set to to trigger a stampede of project developers with large-scale developments in the pipeline, such as Canadian Solar, desperate to complete their installations by the August 1st cut-off.

"This means that virtually all investors have withdrawn from financing such developments," Newman added. "There were probably many hundreds lined up for development across the country. They're pretty much all cancelled now because of the fast track review. This type of installation will be a relative rarity for a few years."

However, Newman remains optimistic about solar’s future in the UK. "They will come back because tariffs and subsidies for solar are a necessary device to create the industry right now but the rate of change of price of solar is on a strong downward trend," he said. "Within a few years, the amount of subsidy needed will go down significantly. When that happens, more of these can happen with less cost and become more attractive to investors."