Large-scale solar makes a comeback

Large-scale solar power projects are set to make a comeback as costs decline – and landowners should act now to secure rental agreements.

According to independent power consultant Roadnight Taylor, demand for large-scale solar is set for a revival, with developers returning to the market after three years of impasse. “In 2015 the Government announced the end of the Feed in Tariff and Renewable Obligation incentives, which killed the solar market,” explains chief executive Hugh Taylor. “Since then, the renewables industry has been waiting for a time when the cost of solar technology has reduced sufficiently to make further schemes worthwhile.”

Solar costs have since reduced by 20-30% a year, at the same time as wholesale energy prices have soared by nearly 60% – which means developers are back in the market. “Solar operators are starting to secure power purchase agreements with large corporate organisations like Amazon and Google, which have committed to using 100% renewable energy,” says Mr Taylor. “These operators anticipate the first schemes to be built in 2019, with the pace picking up into 2021 and 2022.”

This means developers are already on the lookout for suitable sites. Typically, these will be upwards of 40 acres, relatively flat and in an area of good solar irradiation, he adds. Importantly, they will also be in an area with good grid connection capacity remaining. “Ground rents will vary considerably depending on the site, but offers can exceed £150,000 a year for a 25-year lease for larger schemes.”

However, it’s important that landowners act fast – because grid capacity is severely limited. “If there is capacity on your part of the network it will only be enough for one scheme. If you’ve got a good site you need to secure that capacity for yourself before someone gets in first.”

To get the best deal, it’s also vital to act independently from a developer, warns Mr Taylor. “You should take professional advice – our ‘Stop/Go’ study costs from £350 to see whether a site has true potential. We can then secure the grid rights for you, and market your site to multiple developers so you retain control and get the best terms available.”

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.