Location. Location. Location… Choosing the best site for a solar development

It may be a hackneyed phrase, but when it comes to developing a commercial scale ground mounted solar array, the thrice repeated ‘L’ word is a mantra not to be ignored.

Location 1: Represents your proximity to an available point of connection (POC) – in other words a route of access that allows you to get the solar electricity generated back into the Grid – without a viable point of connection your project is doomed.

Unfortunately with an existing grid system struggling to cope with the newly placed demand upon it to accept, not just distribute electricity, the challenge of finding a cost effective point of connection is like searching for the Holy Grail, and unsurprisingly the further away you travel from urban hubs and centralised distribution points, the harder and more expensive it becomes. The cost of and ability to connect is the major factor in determining the viability of a solar site.

Location 2: Represents the potential visual impact of your development. The challenge here is to ensure that the site that you select is in the proximity of a viable Grid connection, and yet has road access that will allow articulated vehicles to deliver key construction components, but is far enough away from civilization that the development won’t be visible. You are wise to look at your proposed project from a residential perspective i.e. find out where every dwelling or footpath that might overlook the proposed array is. Visit these locations, and if after you have done this you find yourself debating whether someone has a legal right to view; immediately recognise you are probably in the wrong place. Remember always that it isn’t just the local residents that need to be won over but also the opinions of the planning committee.

Location 3: Represents the actual geographic location and orientation of your proposed array. This determines how productive your solar array is likely to be (if installed and maintained correctly).The likely electrical generation heavily influences the financial viability of a proposed solar site. A highly productive site because of its favourable geographic location can tolerate a much higher connection cost. However as the southern Grid is filling up, project Developers are reluctantly pushing further north and looking at ‘Brown Field’ sites. However, as the subsidies paid for developing solar projects are the same whether you are in Cornwall or Northumberland, on ‘Green Field’ or contaminated land, unless the cost to develop is significantly cheaper, there is little incentive to develop sites away from the regions of the UK that enjoy the most unimpeded sunlight and are the simplest to construct.

The UK has a good stable solar climate and the performance in electricity generation that early solar adopters have achieved has far exceeded expectations. Additionally the UK is a legislatively secure place to invest in developing solar projects but; subsidies are falling, the Grid is choked, and with increasing public resistance because of perceived regional saturation and the drive to develop ‘Super Sites’, without the three locations aligning perfectly the sun is unlikely to ever shine on your solar project.

Novus Energyis a UK owned developer, investor and consultant to commercial organisations and private property and landowners, building and investing in renewable energy projects throughout the UK.

For more information about our services, please contact Ed directly on 0203 667 3544.

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