Swindon Borough Council’s renewables development arm has sealed a deal with private partners to expand its grid-scale PV and battery portfolio.

The municipally controlled Public Power Solutions intends a 49.9MWp PV-plus-storage project at Burcot, Oxfordshire as the first in a pipeline aiming for 250MWp by 2025.

Its partners Hive Energy and Ethical Energy will build Burcot and its yet-to-be-declared sisters, managing them in the long term.  Cheaper finance accessible to a public authority will be among PPS’s value propositions in the partnership.

Of the latest deal, PPS managing director Bernie Brannan commented: “PPS is looking forward to working with Hive and Ethical to deliver a significant pipeline of solar and storage developments that will make an important contribution to the UK’s plans to decarbonise our energy system”.

“Our partnership will facilitate a consistent approach over the life of our projects and ensure long-term beneficial relationships with the communities that host them.”

Away from public sector involvement, Hive Energy was the initial developer with Wirsol in bringing to approval the 350MWp Cleve Hill development near Faversham, one of Britain’s biggest grid-scale PV projects.  The Kent project received ministerial consent in 2020. Per reports, Cleve Hill’s new owner Quinbrooke Infrastructure Partnership intends to start construction this year, under its re-branding ‘Project Fortress’.

Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and England’s ‘mid-West’ are home to pioneering solar developments by the public sector.  Co-developed by the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Cabinet Office, the former RAF Lyneham airbase near Royal Wootton Bassett hosts the 70 MWp Bradenstoke solar farm, now owned by Bluefield Solar.

Land around the former RNAY Wroughton, a former military airbase south of Swindon and once part of the Science Museum, now accommodates PPS’ 50MWp of ground-mounted solar.  The boroughs of Warrington, Newham and Thurrock chipped in.

In municipally-supported renewables, Adam Twine’s farm at Watchfield, on the Wiltshire-Oxfordshire border hosts Westmill Solar, believed to be the world’s biggest co-operatively owned solar park, with its 5MWp of solar PV and 3MWp of onshore wind turbines.

A £ 12 million loan from Lancashire County Council enabled Westmill’s construction, adding to the 1,695 locals who pledged £4 million in a community-led float. Westmill’s achievement was recognised by an EU award for co-operative energy in 2013.

Interest declared: This author invests in several UK solar co-operatives, though not Westmill Solar.


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