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Ferry Farm Community Solar, a community benefit society, is celebrating as the 5MWp community solar farm near Selsey, West Sussex has been connected to the grid and the panels are now generating electricity from the sun. The solar farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,300 local homes. The project was pre-accredited in June 2015 for the government feed-in tariff for 20 years.
The project is being funded by £4.3million of capital raised by investment specialists Triple Point from over 100 private investors, and a community share offer, which has recently launched, to raise a target £630,000. The community shares offer an intended return of 6% per year plus return of capital over 20 years and are eligible for inheritance tax relief. To find out more see www.ferryfarmsolar.co.uk.
Each year a portion of income generated by the solar farm will be used to support community organisations and projects in the local area. Ferry Farm Community Solar is looking forward to collaborating with other community energy enterprises in the south of England on a range of renewable energy, fuel poverty and energy efficiency initiatives.
The project was initially developed by solar specialists BNRG Renewables and the Langmead Group, a local food and farming business. Community energy advisors, Communities for Renewables CIC, has helped set up the Ferry Farm community society which manages the financing process and will provide ongoing administrative support.
Solarcentury took steps from the outset to ensure local wildlife was protected throughout the project – this included over 1km of reptile fence and an extensive landscaping and ecological mitigation plan. A landscaping plan is also being instigated to ensure that any potential visual impact is minimized. Ecology in the area will be enriched and rejuvenated further with wildflower seed mix and hedge / shrub planting. Solarcentury will also be installing over 350m of public bridleway which runs through the centre of the site.
Ben Cooper, Director of Ferry Farm Community Solar said: “This is a significant step towards the Selsey and Sidlesham area taking control of its energy future and retaining within the local economy some of the £20 million per year we spend on energy. Ferry Farm Community Solar will help to support over 150 active community organisations in the area, providing solar energy and income for local projects for the next 25+ years.”
Tim Rose, Sales Director Europe at Solarcentury commented, “Solarcentury is pleased to have connected this solar farm for the community energy society. As always, we aim to build solar projects with high ecological ambitions, which means respecting and safeguarding the environmental interests of the Selsey area.”
David Maguire, director of BNRG Renewables said: “BNRG, in partnership with the site’s landowner, Langmead Farms, are particularly proud of successfully bringing Ferry Farm from initial opportunity all the way through to energization. This project was achieved through great collaboration between Community for Renewables, Triplepoint and Solarcentury and is a testament to the ability of community ownership to deliver great projects, clean energy and real community benefit in the form of up to £1m of community contributions over the life of the solar farm.
Ben Beaton, Managing Partner of Triple Point said: “Triple Point is delighted to have helped fund the community solar project at Ferry Farm. We are particularly pleased that investors have backed a successfully commissioned solar project, which will also achieve real and lasting benefits for the local community. Supporting the Ferry Farm Community Solar Project adds to our portfolio of solar pv investments as well as to the partnerships we have developed over the last five years with charities and social enterprises. We look forward to working with Ferry Farm Community Solar to help it achieve and expand its community objectives.”
Jake Burnyeat of Communities for Renewables CIC said: “The Ferry Farm project is a great collaboration between commercial partners and the local community. The outcome is a professionally managed solar project that achieves genuine local ownership and benefit through the community share offer, local governance and community income generated.”
Contrary what you may think solar irradiance in Ireland is good and comparable to much of the UK, is about 78% of that of France and better than the Netherlands, all countries that have deployed significant volumes of solar PV in recent years. In advance of an expected policy support there has been a significant interest in solar in Ireland recently with over 2.5 Gigawatts of solar PV grid connection applications into ESB Networks as of last week. That’s a massive level of investment and interest from the players in the market. It shows a real belief that policy support will be forthcoming. Coillte, Bord na Mona, SSE and now ESB have thrown their hats into the ring having all recently announced that they are seeking to diversify their generation businesses into solar and currently drafting plans to develop significant solar capacity over the coming years. Seasoned industry experts like BNRG Renewables, Power Capital and Amarenco have made significant investment in Ireland already and recruited new teams to develop solar in their home country in anticipation of policy support.
SEAI (technical advisor to government on energy matters) and the EPA (technical advisor to government on environmental matters) have announced recently that we are significantly behind reaching our 2020 targets in electricity, heat and transport. SEAI confirm that we need to deploy 250MW of wind every year between now and 2020 to achieve our renewable targets or risk significant fines from Europe. Yet the average deployment of wind in the last few years has been 177MW per annum. With the rising tide of public sentiment against wind in planning, this is highly challenging and Ireland is likely to face significant fines of over €150 million per 1% of target missed per annum. Despite the fact that large scale solar is the cheapest form of renewable energy after onshore wind and can be rapidly deployed, the SEAI failed to mention solar PV in their recent report, Ireland’s Energy Targets, Progress, Ambition & Impacts. (April 2016). This report is a ‘Summary for Policy-Makers’. This lack of inclusion of solar PV in the thinking of SEAI is a matter of concern as solar is the single most prominent form of renewable energy worldwide (Bloomberg estimate that every year in the last five years, total global investment in solar has surpassed that of wind by a material margin). Indeed The Economist this month estimates that the global new investment in solar last year was over US$161 billion, more than natural gas and coal combined. Europe is still the world leader in solar PV deployed with over 100 gigawatts of installed capacity, yet Ireland is the last EU member to award any policy support to this leading technology. Why have SEAI not mentioned solar PV as a viable renewable energy technology given it is the dominant generation technology globally and the cheapest source of renewable generation after onshore wind in Ireland?
Co-funded by SEAI, The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) commissioned an independent report into the potential of solar energy in Ireland; A Brighter Future, The Potential Benefits of Solar PV in Ireland (KPMG, November 2015) which concluded that for every euro in policy support the industry would return 3 euros back into the economy and would create and sustain over 7,300 permanent jobs. It is widely accepted that solar PV supports significantly more jobs and any other form of renewable energy. As solar can deploy rapidly (1MW per week once in construction) The Report goes on to highlight that solar can make a real and immediate contribution to achieving our renewable energy targets thus avoiding significant fines. It states that Ireland could deploy over 2GW of solar PV on rooftops and in fields between 2017 and 2022 for the cost of less than 1% on the consumer bill.
Under the last support regime Ireland awarded 150MW capacity of Biomass a REFIT(Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff) ranging between 8 and 14 Euro cent per KWhr (similar to what solar is seeking). Yet the capacity factor for Biomass is circa 90% (i.e. it generates/operates 90% of the time) and for solar is closer to 12%. Thus on a capacity basis (as you only get paid for what you generate and not on what you install), you could deploy close to 1,000MW of solar for the cost of 150MW of Biomass.
So if solar were to receive a policy support, what could the deployment look like in Ireland? Much of the installations would be located in areas of high solar resource (along the south and east coast) which coincide with areas of demand (the population centres) thus avoiding additional transmission infrastructure (high voltage pylons etc.) and reducing thermal losses and maximising use of the existing grid infrastructure. While there may be over 400 (2.4 GW) connection applications received by ESB Networks, processing these applications has been slow and only a small number of grid offers have been issued. Few of these applications will result in projects built as they will be unviable under a competitive auction due to high grid connections costs (between 50% and 100% higher than other European countries), low solar resource, or high rental payments. Some developers have chosen areas of relatively low solar resource, possibly in an effort to secure land options on more favourable terms. Finally, in an effort to secure land in higher solar resource areas many developers have offered leases with unviable rental payments. The rents currently offered in the market range between €700 and as much as €1,750 per acre per year for 25 years. Anything over €1,000 is likely to struggle in a competitive auction.
While no large scale solar projects have been constructed in Ireland to date, I believe that policy support for solar in Ireland is a matter of time as the case is compelling and Ireland cannot ignore the solar opportunity. In 2014, BNRG Identified Ireland as a core strategic territory and appear to be well positioned in the market. We would be keen to grow the home market after spending over a decade deploying solar in other countries around Europe. It would give us huge satisfaction to bring our knowledge and business back home and deploy the cheapest form of renewable energy after onshore wind in Ireland.
Solar PV is a massive global business that Ireland has missed out on this far, but now we have late mover advantage with entering the sector when costs are low and we can learn from the mistakes of others and adopt best practice. Solar can help ensure that we meet our 2020 targets and avoid costly fines, create more jobs than any other form of generation, and deliver a net gain to the Irish tax payer. We cannot afford to ignore solar.
If you have any further queries please use the following details:
BNRG Renewables Ltd, Custom House Plaza 3, Harbourmaster Place, IFSC,
Dublin 1, Website: www.bnrg.ie, Email: email@example.com, Telephone: +35317917882
Irish solar company BNRG Renewables’ has announced that, in partnership with the UK–based agribusiness, the Langmead Group, it completed construction in March of 20 Megawatts (MW) of solar projects. With project funding from HSBC, the Company intends to hold the four 5MW projects located in West Sussex and Wales
Mark Frettingham, HSBC Area Director for Corporate Banking in Sussex, said: “HSBC provided just under €20 million of funding to support BNRG’s latest solar energy expansion. This consisted of four term loans to allow the company to complete each of the four new solar farms which, now finished, have a combined value of €29 million and created 140 full time jobs for one year.
“BNRG are experts in solar energy and as a leading business in their industry it was vital that we provided funding which would enhance and best support the company to help it achieve its ambitions. This next stage of BNRG marks an exciting new chapter for the company and HSBC is pleased to play its part in their expansion, particularly with the positive benefits the projects will have on the environment.”
In addition to providing carbon a reduction to the tune of 10,500 tonnes per year, the four projects built on a cumulative 110 acres will together produce enough electricity to power over 6,500 homes annually for 30 years.
The main construction contractor was Solarcentury, a London based Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor specialising in solar PV projects. The 78,000 solar PV panels required for the projects were supplied by Tata Power Solar, a pioneer in the solar cell and panel manufacturing segment from India. Part of the $108 bn Tata group, the company has been supplying quality modules globally for the last 25 years.
Through these projects BNRG has become Tata Power Solar’s largest international client in 2015, by providing nearly 20 MW of panels to BNRG. Ashish Khanna, their ED & CEO said “UK has seen extraordinary growth in 2015 for solar installations and we see huge potential going forward with BNRG, even in other geographies. We are very proud to have partnered with BNRG over the year and this is a testimony of our best-in-class panels providing reliable and quality power to these projects.”
To date BNRG has developed and constructed solar farms in Greece, Bulgaria and the UK with a combined value of over €200 million. They have completed fourteen utility scale solar projects in the UK since 2011, and expect to have one further 5 Megawatt community financed project constructed and energised by June 2016.
While no large scale solar projects have been constructed in Ireland to date, BNRG Director, David Maguire believes that policy support for solar in Ireland is a matter of time and that we will see the development of solar industry in Ireland in 2017 or 2018. In the last 12 months, ESB Networks have seen a significant number of grid connection applications for solar generation in anticipation of this policy support. In 2014, BNRG Identified Ireland as a core strategic territory and appear to be well positioned in the market. Maguire added that he would be keen to grow the local business after spending over a decade deploying solar in other countries, “it would be nice to bring our knowledge and business back home and deploy the cheapest form of renewable energy after onshore wind in Ireland”.
With EU targets to meet and a political will to diversify away from wind, the Irish market has been seen as a potential safe haven for beleaguered UK developers. Nick Holman, director at BNRG Renewables, explains the challenges for deploying solar PV in Ireland.
With the effective shutdown of the UK solar industry in March of this year, many developers and EPCs are looking across the Irish Sea for new opportunities. While Ireland is not renowned for its sunny weather, solar radiation levels are similar to those found in the Midlands and Wales. As such, the rush is on to secure sites and grid capacity in an effort to get first mover advantage despite the fact that a support mechanism is not expected to be introduced before the end of 2016. That support mechanism is likely to be implemented in mid-2017 after it is approved by Brussels under State Aid regulations.
Renewable energy is dominated by onshore wind, which has benefited from a renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) that is at a level significantly lower to that in the UK. To date, solar has been left out of the REFIT mechanism, primarily due to the perception that there would never be an economic case for solar in cloudy Ireland. This view is changing for a number of reasons.
Irish solar company BNRG Renewables has announced it has completed construction and is exporting electricity to the national grid on three utility sized solar PV parks in the United Kingdom, each of 5 Megawatts. The Company developed and constructed the projects Ferry Farm, Manor Farm and Lagness through a joint venture with the Langmead Group and will continue to own and operate projects.
In addition to providing carbon reduction to the tune of 8,000 tonnes per year, the 5 Megawatt projects on a cumulative 85 acres around West Sussex will together produce enough electricity to power over 5,000 homes annually for 30 years.
Conor Grogan, Project Manager at BNRG who was on site to see the first generation being exported on each of the projects described it as ‘a real milestone which took over 18 months to come to this stage’. Responsible for the co-ordination of the project through development and construction, Grogan went on to say that getting numerous and parallel projects to this stage is a testament to each team member at BNRG who developed a superb portfolio.
The main construction contractor was Solarcentury, a London based Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor specialising in solar PV projects. Solarcentury are a leading EPC Contractor in the UK and abroad, and worked very closely with the BNRG team to ensure that the portfolio was delivered to exacting standards. The 60,000 solar PV panels required for the projects were supplied by Tata, a preferred supplier to BNRG. The Company is one of Tata Solar’s largest international clients.
To date BNRG has developed and constructed solar farms with a combined value of over €200 million. They have completed fourteen utility scale solar projects in the UK since 2011, and expect to have two more 5 Megawatt projects constructed and energised by June 2016, one of which will be a community owned scheme.