Hive Energy’s subsidy-free 40 MW UK solar plant gets approval

Hive Energy is preparing to surround itself with solar power – quite literally. The U.K. renewable energy developer has been granted planning permission to build a 40 MW solar farm on a 72-hectare stretch of farm land that surrounds its global HQ near Romsey, southern England.

Most notably, the solar plant is to be developed completely free from subsidy, Hive Energy says making it one of the first large-scale PV installation to be built in Britain without any government support – and potentially setting a marker for future solar farm development in the U.K. as the price of PV continues to tumble.

The green light was given to Hive Energy this week by Test Valley Borough Council, which has granted a 25-year license on the site that is subject to a number of conditions, one being the restoration of the land to its original state after 25 years.

The developer must also ensure that the solar farm’s disruption to the ecological footprint of the farmland is minimal, and thus Hive Energy will work towards a biodiversity management plan that will allow for sheep grazing, wildflower seeding and the planting of new trees and hedgerows at the site.

A Test Valley Landscape Office commented: “The application [by Hive Energy] has demonstrated that the proposed solar farm could be accommodated within the site without resulting in any loss of or harm to the blocks of woodland surrounding the site, which are a key characteristic and component of the existing landscape character.”

Hive Energy also consulted the British Horse Society to ensure that the plant would be sympathetic to the needs of the local riding community, which is highly visible in and around Romsey, which sits at the edge of the New Forest.

Further, the fact that solar plant will draw no financial support of subsidy from government will also turn heads. Large-scale solar farm development has shuddered almost to a complete halt over the past year since the Conservative government ended early the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme for utility-scale solar farms, while the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction mechanism was tilted against PV from the very off, favouring instead developers of wind power projects.

“This subsidy-free solar farm will generate a level of renewable energy that will make a significant contribution towards meeting national renewable energy targets and will help to increase the security of the U.K.’s energy supply,” said Hive Energy CEO Giles Redpath. Hive Energy estimates that the completed solar farm will generate enough clean energy to power the needs of 9,100 local households, while also mitigating the effects of 16,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.