Cero Generation and Enso Energy have announced the energisation of what is claimed to be the first UK solar farm to connect to the higher voltage transmission network rather than a local distribution network. The 50MW solar farm will be co-location with a 49.5MW / 99MWh battery energy storage system (BESS), allowing more flexibility and efficiency in power generation.
By connecting to the transmission network, the Larks Green solar farm will allow clean energy to be transported over greater distances. It will generate 73GWh of electricity annually.
Cero Generation is part of the portfolio of Australian financial services company Maquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG), while Enso Energy is Cero’s UK development partner. Cero Generation’s European portfolio includes “11GW under development, across 150 utility-scale and on-site generation projects”, according to the company.
Solar Power Portal reported in 2022 that “Since 2012, Macquarie Asset Management has lent approximately £2.6 billion across around 40 renewable energy projects, with these representing a total installed capacity of over 15.5GW”. In February 2023, DIF Capital Partners and ib vogt agreed to acquire a 100% interest in the co-located solar and battery portfolio of Cero Generation and Enso Energy.
New switchgear has been installed at the site by Cero and Enso in collaboration with National Grid, along with a high voltage cable between the substation and solar farm, connecting the 49.9MW Larks Green solar farm to its Iron Acton substation near Bristol.
The 152,400 solar module, 200-acre site near National Grid's 400kV Iron Acton substation is projected to generate over 73GWh annually. Cero said the site would help meet the UK’s commitment to decarbonise the power grid by 2035, which includes a 500% increase in solar generation to reach 70GW of installed solar generation.
Cero also said it was committed to achieving a biodiversity net gain (BNG) on the site by encouraging local wildlife.
“As the country’s first solar project to connect to the transmission network, it represents true innovation that paves the way for others to follow and enable the rapid deployment of much more clean energy,” Marta Martinez Queimadelos, chief executive of Cero Generation said.
“Completion of this project is a major milestone for renewable energy in the UK and provides further evidence that co-located solar and battery storage projects connecting directly to the transmission network will play an important role in the delivery of the UK’s net zero plans,” Ian Harding, co-founder and director of Enso Energy said.
“This net zero milestone comes as we’re investing in the biggest upgrade to the grid in a generation, enabling more home-grown renewable electricity to power the country than ever before. We want to connect more, and faster, and are working with government, Ofgem and industry to reform the connections process to accelerate Britain's transition to a cleaner, more secure and affordable energy system,” Roisin Quinn, director of customer connections at National Grid said.
Cero and Enso have 38 other co-located BESS projects in their UK pipeline, which currently has 5GW or projected capacity with another 5GW in early-stage development. National Grid said it had spent around £5 billion on infrastructure since 2018, with plans to spend £9 billion in the five years to 2026.