As 2015 draws to a close, Solar Power Portal runs through some of the biggest and most interesting stories of the year. In part one, we cover the government’s 69MW project at DTTC Lyneham and HM Treasury’s decision to make community energy projects exempt from tax relief schemes.

Government has completed the UK’s largest solar farm

The new government was barely a month old when Solar Power Portal revealed that the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) had completed an enormous 69.5MW solar farm on the site of a former air base.

DTTC Lyneham – as it is now known – was originally expected to have a capacity of 40MW but a raft of non-material planning amendments made after conditional planning approval in November 2014 sent its final capacity skyrocketing towards the 70MW figure.

And the project could get bigger still. Additional land at the site could be developed and a DIO spokesperson informed SPP at the time that Lyneham could have a capacity upwards of 86MW should its maximum potential be fulfilled.

British Solar Renewables was the firm tasked with engineering, procurement and construction works, with AMEC Environment & Infrastructure the successful site developer. DTTC Lyneham is still the UK’s largest operational solar farm and, given the closure of the Renewables Obligation scheme, is likely to remain so for some time to come.

Treasury removes tax relief for community energy schemes

There’s tough competition for the title of most destructive government energy policy in 2015, but the decision in October to make community energy projects exempt from receiving EIS, SEIS and SITR tax relief is a definite contender.

The decision was rushed through as amendments to the 2015 Finance Bill made between its second and third reading and came as a shock to most, if not all, of the community energy sector. Mongoose Energy MD Jan-Willem Bode told SPP at the time that he had been assured by “various civil servants in various government departments” that EIS would remain for at least six months after SITR had come into effect.

It prompted considerable outcry from the industry and HM Treasury eventually sought to pin the blame on perceived tax avoidance, claiming it had evidence such schemes were being used for “low-risk tax planning purposes”. This has proven to be the only comment HMT has made on the subject to date, with the department reluctant to discuss it further publicly.

Community Energy England has taken the tentative first steps towards launching a judicial review of the decision, with more developments expected early in the new year.