Solar developer Lark Energy has partnered with Armstrong Energy to complete a 9MW solar farm at Hanson Cement’s Ketton works in Rutland.

The solar farm sits on top of 20 hectares of former quarry and is expected to generate around 10% of the cement work’s annual electricity consumption. The 38,544 modules represent that first phase of the project which aims to install a further 3MW of capacity later this year.

“It has been very rewarding for the Hanson Renewable Energy Team to see the first of their projects come to fruition with the switch on of the Hanson Cement Solar Farm at Ketton,” said Mark Cox of Hanson Cement.  “This is the first of what is hoped are many such projects the company will be involved in over the coming years as we strive to reduce our CO2 emissions and energy costs.”

One of the key challenges facing Lark Energy was the site’s grid connection: electricity from the site is fed into Hanson’s private 11kV network which feeds into Western Power Distribution’s 33kVnetwork. As a result, Lark Energy had to design the solar farm with active and reactive power management measures, protecting the grid from reverse current. The developer said that its approach provided a number of benefits, including minimising the need for expensive 33kV upgrade work, reducing Hanson’s energy costs and allowing inverters to act as capacitor batteries at night.

Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Lark Energy commented: “Large-scale solar is perfectly suited to projects such as this on previously used industrial land and where all the energy can be utilised directly by nearby businesses. We look forward to working on some further projects like this in the coming months.”

Armstrong Energy provided funding for the project partly through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hanson under which the company receives a proportion of the energy generated from the solar farm for free with the remainder purchased at a preferential rate.

Steve Mahon, director of Armstrong Energy explained: “This project with Hanson and Lark Energy is an exemplar of this approach and includes an innovative power sales agreement that builds a sustainable market advantage for the host. We believe this approach can be used with large energy users both in the UK and overseas and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with both Hanson and Lark Energy.”

Lark Energy claims that the solar farm will not only help significantly lower the cement work’s carbon emissions but also contribute to improving the per capita carbon emissions of Rutland, the smallest county in the UK.