Britain’s Largest Solar Plant Gets Green Signal
With a total of nearly 900,000 solar panels, the 350 MW Cleve Hill Solar Park will be the UK’s largest solar plant. The plant will be housed on a 900-acre site and will power over 90,000 homes. It is one of the few solar farms of this size to employ a battery storage system, making it a more reliable power plant.
The plant costs £450 million and does not rely on any government subsidies. Owing to its size, the plant is also aiming to be the cheapest power producer in the country. It is poised to provide an annual £1 million in revenue to the Swale and Kent councils.
In the summer of 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net-zero emissions law. The new target requires the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. The UK’s emissions have already dropped by 27%, despite a 72% growth in economy.
The new Kent solar plant will help the UK to accelerate toward the net zero goal. At the same time, it will also create many direct and indirect jobs. The developer of the plant has created an ‘Outline Skills, Supply Chain and Employment Plan’ that will help secure local economic benefits from the solar plant.
The plant is poised to start construction by Spring 2021. The first phase will take 18 months and includes a solar park and a habitat management area. Phase two will include the construction of the energy storage facility, and will take about six months to complete.
There have been concerns from the local community about loss of biodiversity, but the developer has assured that the project will increase the biodiversity by up to 65%, thanks to the installation of open grassland and Meadow areas, hedgerows and woodland.
More Details on the Plant
Image showing location fo the plant on a map (source – Kent Online)
The plant is unique in the way the panels will be placed. Instead of traditional south facing panels, this plant will have an East-West orientation which will allow maximizing of space. In addition to that, some of the panels are mounted as tall as 4 metres high, considering the risk of flooding.
The approval for the new 350MW plant was given by Alok Sharma, The Secretary of State for Business, Environmental and Industrial Strategy. The developer is a partnership between two companies – Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy. Hive is also the developer of the Southwick Estate solar plant, which was then (2015) the UK’s largest solar plant.