solar panels

Local council builds ‘cutting-edge’ solar farms

Image credit: PA

Two “cutting-edge” solar farms are being installed by Warrington Borough Council that are designed to maximise their energy output “at every step”.

Firstly, the solar farms will be linked to a 27MW lithium-ion battery storage system built in York, which energy company Gridserve believes will be the largest installed at any UK solar farm.

It will allow the flow of energy to be controlled to get the best prices for it when exporting to the National Grid.

A battery storage system is also planned to be installed at Hull in a later phase of the project.

The solar panels have been optimised to boost their energy generation by 20 per cent by using bifacial panels that generate energy on both sides.

The panels will also be the first large-scale UK projects to use trackers which follow the sun, allowing them to avoid price cannibalisation risk from solar farms with fixed-position solar panels which typically produce peak output at the same time each day.

Electric forecourts that can supercharge up to 24 electric vehicles simultaneously will be installed next to the facility.

Warrington Borough council has agreed to pay £62.3m for the two farms and will take ownership when they are operational.

It expects the projects will generate £150m over 30 years for investing in other services.

The Hull solar farm will supply all of the council’s electricity needs and cut its bills by up to £2m a year, while the York solar farm’s power will be sold on the open market, though other local authorities have shown an interest.

Russ Bowden, leader of Warrington Borough Council, said: “This deal is good news for Warrington residents and good news for the environment.

“The solar farms will secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, contribute to reducing fuel poverty and generate an estimated operating surplus of £150m over 30 years that can be invested back into the most important front-line services.

“Councils have a major role to play in helping to meet carbon emission reduction targets. These two sites are a working model that we hope other local authorities will follow.”

Together, the two solar farms will generate enough green electricity each year to supply the equivalent of more than 18,000 average UK homes, or more than 30,000 electric vehicles, saving 25,000 tonnes of carbon per year.

Construction of the York solar farm on 198 acres of low-grade farmland at Boscar Grange, Easingwold, is set to begin shortly and the site is expected to be operational by October.

The Hull scheme, on 131 acres of low-grade agricultural land near Bilton, will follow.

Toddington Harper, chief executive of Gridserve, said: “These will be the most advanced solar farms in the UK - and quite possibly the world - ushering in a new era of subsidy-free, truly sustainable energy.

“We’ve completely rethought the solar model, looking in detail at how to maximise value at every step, and these projects will also pioneer the use of cutting-edge technologies that serve the grid.”

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