The project in Kent will include 373MW of solar and >150MW of battery storage. Image: Pxhere (NC).

The UK’s “largest” solar and battery energy storage project, Cleve Hill Solar Park, has started construction, Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners confirmed.

The specialist global investment manager revealed the Kent-based project, which consists of 373MW of solar and “more than” 150MW of battery energy storage, is expected to be fully completed by the end of 2024.

Once complete, Cleve Hill Solar Park will consist of 880,000 solar panels and battery storage. It was granted development consent by the energy secretary in May 2020.

The £450 million solar park – a joint venture originally between Hive Energy and Wirsol before being acquired by Quinbrook in 2021 – was the first in the UK to be classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) due to its scale.

The project, which had been renamed to Project Fortress, was originally scheduled to be constructed in the second half of 2022. Throughout its lifetime, it has faced significant public opposition as well as an attempt by Swale Borough Council to get its development consent overturned.

“High energy prices, geopolitical instability and the UK’s ambitious net zero goals are bringing into focus the critical need to accelerate the building of the next generation of energy transition infrastructure in the UK,” said Rory Quinlan, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook.

“In our view, large scale solar and battery storage projects are key to achieving the decarbonisation imperatives of the energy transition the world over and we are doing our best to create a blueprint for more projects to come here in the UK. Just as importantly, we are committed to doing this in a way that is truly impactful in supporting jobs and delivering a range of tangible benefits to the local community.”

 In July 2022, Quinbrook announced the successful award of a 15-year Contract for Difference (CfD) in the UK's latest CfD allocation auction to support financing for the project. This contract award was the “largest received by a UK solar project”, the firm said, as part of the biggest-ever round of the UK government's flagship auction scheme. 

Cleve Hill has dedicated 138 acres towards habitat management, designed in collaboration with Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, RSPB, and the Environment Agency that will add more than 3.5km of native hedgerow screen planting across the site and seek to deliver a net gain of over 65% in biodiversity.

Quinbrook has now confirmed project financing from a diverse group of lenders has commenced with “strong interest” received from the financing sector due to the project’s high grade contracted revenue profile and inflation hedge benefits, the firm said. Selection of preferred lenders and the completion of debt financing is expected over the coming months.


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