If DECC’s proposals to draw a line under new RO applications from 22 July 2015 end up being written into policy, then potentially one of the hardest hit will be pure-play developers of solar farms.

Pure-play developers are one of the main engines behind the 5.3GW of completed solar farms now installed in the UK. They typically manage sites through the planning application process, discharge all or most of the approval conditions, and then sell site rights to a downstream-integrated developer, an EPC, or a financial investor that will take full ownership of the site when accredited.

So, to qualify as a pure-play developer, it is assumed that the company has no lead-EPC play and is not developing sites in order to build up an in-house asset portfolio. Their role is getting sites to the point that they can be sold and then built, or as close to ‘shovel-ready’ as possible.

But what percentage of the market is covered by these pure-play developers?

Drawing upon a new bottom-up analysis undertaken by the Solar Intelligence team, using site-specific details within our new Report 4 – Completed Assets, we can now reveal some key statistics to back up the data presented.

The Top 10 pure-play developers account for almost 1.4GW of completed solar farm capacity, or about 26% of the overall total. But, if we factor in the full complement of pure-play developers, this number increases to 3GW, or about 57%. So, we can see that pure-play developers have been the dominant force behind ground-mounted solar in the UK until now.

In fact, pure-play developers don’t generally sell individual sites, unless of course the sites are so big that they are worthy of selling on a one-off basis. Bundles of sites tend to be packaged, sold to the same portfolio investor, and will often use the same sub-set of module and inverter suppliers (and EPCs or sub-contractors) to perform the package build process. Construction – or infrastructure – funding often aligns with these package deals also.

All said and done, here are the Top-10 pure-play developers in the UK, ranked on a completed (accredited) site MW basis:

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Top 10 pure-play project developers of ground-mounted solar in the UK. Source: Solar Intelligence Report 4 – Completed Assets, 30 July 2015

To many casual observers of UK solar, some of the names may appear unfamiliar. But to companies like Foresight, Bluefield or SunEdison – or indeed EPCs or module suppliers looking for the next big package deal offering – doing business in some capacity with these companies is simply priceless.

Hive is the clear leader by some margin, as we revealed in a recent blog on the top ranked players in the ground-mount segment. The inclusion of Inazin is the only marginal one in terms of pure-play qualification, but we have chosen in this case to decouple from Low Carbon, as Inazin’s specific role in the market is relatively clear to see.

Looking forward, a few issues arise for the companies listed above.

  • What are their pipelines for pending grace-compliant projects (including grace from 2014 and likely 2015), all of which may have a 31 March 2016 hard-stop, if DECC proposals go ahead?

  • Are any of them – other than Inazin – moving into the commercial rooftop space with PPAs?

  • But potentially more of a concern, what do they do post subsidy in the UK ground-mount sector?

On the last point, it raises another interesting statistic from the listing. Apart from Kronos, all the leading pure-play developers are broadly speaking UK centric. In this respect, and short of a somewhat unlikely welcome upside in the form of CfDs, the future may look rather different compared to the Feed-in Tariff/Renewable Obligation large-scale offerings on the table in the UK since 2011.

The above analysis is sourced from the full list of completed solar farms, now available from Solar Media through our Report 4 – Completed Assets report: this includes original and final developers, lead EPCs, asset owners, and much more.