UK’s Lightsource and BlackRock team on £1bn solar strategy

While movement in the U.K. solar market is relatively anemic when compared to the vibrancy that characterized the sector a couple of years ago, British renewable energy developer Lightsource is aiming to grow its eponymous presence by pouring cash and effort into the secondary solar market.

To this aim, the company has created a new venture called Kingfisher, in partnership with clean energy investor and asset manager BlackRock Real Assets. Their combined goal is to acquire £1 billion worth of installed solar capacity over the next three years, targeting a volume of 1 GW.

The early seedings of this partnership are evident in the installation of 156 MW of U.K. solar capacity by Lightsource across 25 separate projects built under both the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) or the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. In addition, 50 MW of ROC-backed solar capacity in Northern Ireland is also in the works under the partnership, with commissioning scheduled for later this year.

The partnership will see Lightsource provide O&M and asset management to existing solar plants built under the ROC and acquired by Kingfisher. BlackRock, which has invested in more than 20 solar projects totaling 150 MW in the U.K., said that the tie-up between the firms will help the country realize its solar potential.

“We believe the U.K. market continues to present attractive opportunities for institutional investors,” BlackRock MD and head of renewable power for Europe Rory O’Connor said in a statement.

Lightsource CIO Paul McCarties added that, by leveraging economies of scale, the partnership can “provide cost efficiencies and better returns as we acquire U.K. solar plants and operate them as part of our growing global portfolio.”

The U.K. currently has just over 12 GW of solar PV capacity installed, but the pace of growth has slowed significantly since the government removed many of the subsidies that had underpinned its expansion between 2013 and 2015.

This week, energy and business secretary Greg Clark laid out bold plans to invest £246 million into battery storage technology – a sector that has inherent synergies with solar.

“We welcome the U.K. government and regulator’s recent announcements and efforts to remove some of the barriers to wide-scale storage deployment,” McCartie told pv magazine. “While the main focus of Kingfisher will be U.K. solar assets, we are actively looking to integrate storage across our existing fleet as it becomes economically attractive.”

McCartie revealed that the Lightsource team is already working on storage projects both in the U.K. and overseas.