As 2015 draws to a close, Solar Power Portal runs through some of the biggest and most interesting stories of the year. In part three, we take a look back at February’s CfD results, which has since seen two winning projects stumble, and a high court ruling which may lead to the dismantling of a solar park in Wiltshire.
When pitted against onshore wind in a battle for renewables funding from February’s contracts for difference (CfD) auction, bidding was always going to be tight for solar projects. Only five projects totalling less than 72MW proved successful, which initially seemed positive as there were concerns that solar would not be able to match the prices that wind was able to offer. Sadly, this proved to be true with two of the projects – Wick Farm Solar Park and Royston Solar Farm – making an uneconomic strike price deal at £50MWh and since being abandoned.
While it could be argued that the developers should not have agreed to this strike price, spare a thought for the words of James Rowe, director for Hadstone Energy which was bidding for Wick Farm, who said: “If we don't accept the offer, we're in for the non-delivery obligation. So we got the stick without the carrot, the hook without the bait.
“For solar, this CfD round doesn't look much like ‘world-leading competitive auction’, it looks a lot like policy failure,” he said.
Sadly, policy could continue to disrupt solar involvement in CfD auctions, with the technology looking set to be excluded from the next allocation round to take place in 2016. It is also unclear if solar – as a ‘pot one’ technology – will be considered at all for the two remaining rounds scheduled to take place during this parliamentary term. In some ways this may not be considered too much of a shock, as according to Finlay Colville, head of intelligence at Solar Intelligence, it would have been more of a surprise if solar had been included, and most developers had by now written off their chances of gaining CfD support.
In another story of struggling developments, a £10m solar park in Wiltshire found itself in trouble after the High Court ruled that it had been unlawfully built.
The 22-hectare solar farm at Broughton Gifford was completed last year but its planning permission was challenged by Daniel Gerber, owner of the nearby Grade II-listed building Gifford Hall. He claimed that he was not made aware of the development prior to construction and that Wiltshire Council had failed to consult with English Heritage before granting permission. This led to a ruling by Mr Justice Dove that the council’s failure to notify Gerber and English Heritage was a “clear legal error”.
Solar project developer SunEdison appealed the ruling, claiming it “deviates significantly” from established case law. The case is still ongoing, but Wiltshire council seems to have taken it as a sign that it should be a lot more careful in approving solar farms, having rejected planning permission for a 12MW solar farm to be constructed by SunEdison one mile away from the controversial solar array.
With recent cuts to subsidy for standalone solar projects like those mentioned here, the future could look murky for large solar farms like this. But with many pre-accredited under old rates, and with 272MW of standalone solar connected in November alone, there are likely to be enough projects still in the pipeline to get significant projects off the ground in the new year and beyond.