Primrose Solar has acquired a new 5MW solar farm site in Leicestershire from Solstice Renewables as the company moves north in search of better grid connections.
The farm, located near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, was granted planning consent in September 2015 and was intended to be a split in two, with a second 1MW farm to be community owned under the government’s shared ownership framework.
While the future of the smaller farm has been put in question following the removal of tax reliefs for community energy projects, Primrose Solar has already appointed a contractor to build its new solar farm, which is due for completion on 31 March 2016. The project is forecast to generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1,500 typical homes and to save around 2,150 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
The route for the second stage of the HS2 railway line runs close to the site, which is currently used for farming. Solstice Renewables claims solar energy is an appropriate use for the site as it will become more difficult to use as arable land once HS2 is established.
Giles Clark, chief executive of Primrose Solar, added: “Primrose is very pleased to have acquired another good solar farm site from Solstice Renewables as we share the same approach to promoting biodiversity and good stewardship of the land. The route for HS2 runs just north of the site which will make it harder to farm effectively so solar energy is a good use of the land.”
The land around the panels will be managed to improve its biodiversity and is expected to stay in agricultural usage, with sheep grazing in winter and wildflower meadows in summer. The solar farm is well screened from residents and public viewpoints, and Primrose will be continuing Solstice’s programme of educational benefits for local schools. A community benefit fund will also be set up for the 25-year lifetime of the project which will be shared between Ashby Town Council and the neighbouring Packington Parish council.
Giovanni Maruca, director for Solstice Renewables, said: “We are very pleased that Ashby Solar Farm will be built and operated by Primrose, a company which shares our own commitment to industry-leading biodiversity, social and educational benefits.”
Primrose Solar now has 13 solar farms representing 198 MWp of installed capacity (including Ashby) either operational or under construction. Its existing sites are predominantly in coastal locations, with the Leicestershire site representing a geographical shift for the company. A spokesperson for the company explained the decision was prompted by the increasingly constrained grid capacity in the south, with the new site combining good sun hours with good grid connection.
Solstice Renewables will continue to work with local group Green Fox Community Energy and the Thringstone Trust to facilitate the construction of the 1MW Ashby Community Solar Farm which is adjacent to the project. However the viability and timing of the community project has become less certain due to changes to government community energy policy.