Britain’s biggest solar PV farm to date, the 350MWp Cleve Hill project near Faversham, Kent, has been given the go ahead.
The £450 million development is the UK first PV farm to qualify as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), thus requiring sign-off by energy secretary of state Alok Sharma.
The Cleve Hill farm will be sited across 960 acres (388 hectares) – the equivalent of 600 football pitches – on the north Kent coast. More than 870,000 panels, some mounted on racks as high as a double-decker bus, will face east and west to maximise output.
Co-developers Wirsol Energy and Hive Energy intend to add massive amounts of battery storage, up to 700MWh. The site already has an existing 400kV substation, located at one of the transmission grid’s tightest pinch points in southern England.
Cleve Hill has been in planning since 2017. Construction is scheduled to begin in next spring, with first power due by 2022. Backers are yet to be confirmed.
The massive development has been criticised by Greenpeace, as well as local MP Helen Whately, who fear “industrialisation” of the north Kent’s coastal strip.
But its developers say it enhances biodiversity. Three kilometres of hedgerow will be planted. A freshwater grazing marsh will be maintained, as will habitats sheltering overwintering birds. Rights of way including the Saxon Shore coastal path will be respected, and conservation groups will sit on the site’s management body.
A BEIS spokesperson commented :
“The decision to grant consent for the Cleve Hill solar park was taken after careful consideration. Solar power has the capacity to play an important role in the UK, ending its contribution to climate change by 2050. This project will help power nearly 100,000 homes, making it a world-leading solar and storage project”.
The scheme is being developed by Hive Energy and Wirsol – and dwarfs anything the two have delivered to date.
Celebrating the decision, Hive CEO Giles Redpath said renewable energy “is the most important thing that is going to happen to our planet over the next 50 years. Solar energy is unique. It will transform the world”
An even bigger solar farm may soon await the minister’s decision under NSIP rules. Sunnica Solar is working a 500MWp installation on the Cambridge/Suffolk border near Newmarket.