The largest solar energy farm the UK has even seen has the potential to transform the sector as we know it. Cleve Hill Solar Park in Kent would be about five times larger than any other solar energy development in the UK, including those only being built at the moment, and with this in mind it’s important to look at why the renewable energy sector is looking to a farm in Kent for ideas moving forward.
How is this Solar Farm Different?
Size is the big factor which makes Cleve Hill stand out but there are also other reasons it could the catalyst for change in the whole sector. It is designed very differently to other solar developments. It features east and west facing solar panels, allowing them to be positioned more closely together and increase the volume of energy captured in any given period, making it a more efficient development in the long run. It would be positioned on the north coast of Kent and when complete, it could deliver as much as 350 megawatts in generating capacity once active. Another key reason it stands out is the plans for no subsidies to be involved. Other non-subsidy plants have been developed, but none have ever been on this huge scale.
Why does this Solar Farm Matter?
The decline in solar interest in the UK has been noticeable. There are approximately a million solar panels working the UK, both in domestic use and on a larger commercial scale. The last decade has seen a decline in interest and this has been linked to government subsidies and the lack of profitability for businesses. When subsidies were high, people and businesses alike were happy to invest in solar energy. Currently there aren’t many subsidies at all for solar plants or installation, so people are less engaged and installation levels are low.
This could all change with Cleve Hill. If the development shows that there is profitability in solar, without any government subsidy, then other businesspeople may have renewed interest in the sector. This could be the change that the renewable energy sector needs to show how solar can be a success both in environmental and monetary terms.
Self-Reliant Solar Power
Cleve Hill is being heralded as the moment solar power becomes self-reliant. It means people may need to think about how solar energy is produced and installed altogether and as it becomes part of the national infrastructure, the approach to this type of energy may need to change. Solar power, like many renewable energies, is driven in part by the weather which can only be predicted to a point. An unusually sunny 2018 summer meant more solar energy could be collected than normal but this isn’t always the case. However, 2018 saw times when over 50% of the UK’s energy demand was met by a combination of solar panel batteries and wind power, so if this could be fully harnessed the renewable sector could become a leader in the energy provision for the whole country.
Large-scale solar developments may have long-term benefits for the environment, but they do have a significant environmental impact the ground. The space they take up may be detrimental to natural habitats for wildlife and require the removal and destruction of forests and other plant life. These are considerations those behind the developments will have to keep in mind. By 2019, everyone will know whether this single farm in Kent can make money without any government subsidies. If this is the case, then a large solar contribution to the UK’s energy provision seems guaranteed.