UK: PV countdown sees "large" parks pop-up

Over the past weeks and months, pv magazine has been closely following the political changes to the photovoltaic support structures in the UK and the scramble as installers race to finish projects there. "Larger" projects, determined as over 50 kilowatts (kW), are set to have FIT rates slashed by around 70 percent in changes to the FIT scheme, meaning developers have been fastracking their pipeline to circumvent this change in policy.

As evidence of this, in the past few days it has been announced that two German companies, Gehrlicher Solar and abakus solar AG, have separately completed the installation on their latest photovoltaic power plants, near Plymouth and Swindon respectively. Both companies worked through their UK subsidiaries and located the installations in England’s southwest, as it is one of the sunniest parts of the country.

Both plants are some of the largest photovoltaic power plants in the UK. Earlier in the month Conergy completed a five MW plant in Nottinghamshire, then heralded the largest of its kind in the country.

The abakus solar AG plant is worth 4.9 MW and covers 16 hectares of land. Around 21,500 AU Optronics polycrystalline modules, four SMA Solar Technology inverters and a monitoring system produced by skytron were used by abakus in the installation. Blue Energy was the developer behind the project in joint venture with Low Carbon Solar Ltd.

The site of the new plant is adjacent to an existing 6MW windfarm. "The combination of wind and photovoltaic power at this scale makes this site unique in the UK renewable energy sector", explained Christopher Dean, Managing Director of Blue Energy, in a statement announcing the plant’s completion.

Guido Stratenhoff, the abakus UK project manager also said the plant was finished in record time. "This will hopefully be one of many more projects as we hope English politicians might reconsider the benefits of large scale PV power plants in the future."

The second UK plant, completed in only days apart from the first, is called Langage Solar Park. Gehrlicher worked with Carlton Power on the project which used around 21, 2500 Yingli modules and seven SMA inverters, over the 12 hectare installation. Gehrlicher also used a customized gabion mounting system due to the "challenging terrain", that prevented pile driving from taking place.

Gerald Kumerle, worked on the mountings used by Gehrlicher Solar on the project and explained in a statement, "On the whole, we have installed 542 gabions [… and] due to the substructure we were able to respond perfectly to the individual characteristics of the site. This solution is an excellent alternative to conventional pile driving and drilling."