Lightsource BP, UK water utility partner for 10 solar farms

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A total of 10 ground-mounted solar farms are slated to be built on Northumbrian Water-owned sites by U.K. solar developer, Lightsource BP.

The projects will generate enough electricity to power more than 3,000 homes, thus enabling the water utility to reduce both its carbon footprint, and its own energy costs.

Earlier in April, Northumbrian Water announced that it would power all 1,858 of its sites using renewable electricity for the next four years, after signing an agreement with Danish energy supplier, Ørsted.

Some of the electricity dispatched by the Danish power provider and wind project developer may also soon come from solar, as the company recently established a solar energy and storage unit, looking to complete its repositioning towards clean energy.

“We have a genuine desire to work with suppliers who share our passion to deliver excellence across our industry while protecting our planet by reducing our carbon footprint. This project will deliver a great result for our customers, the environment and our business,“ said Graham Southall, Commercial Director of Northumbrian Water, which provides water and sewerage services across the North East of England, as well as being the parent company of Essex and Suffolk Water.

As one of the global leaders in the funding, development and long-term management of solar PV projects, Lightsource BP has worked with many large energy users and water utility companies.   

Under the new partnership, the renewable energy developer, 43% of which belongs to oil and gas major, BP, has already started ecological, operational and electrical assessments of water and sewage works for the 10 ground-mount solar PV systems.

“Solar is a locally generated, cost-competitive, reliable and clean alternative that will be a good addition to Northumbrian Water’s energy mix. We are looking forward to working with the team to deliver these 10 sites in the next year,“ said LightsourceBP Chief Executive, Nick Boyle.

As one of the major utility-scale solar developers, and operations and maintenance services providers, Lightsource BP has over $3 billion of capital invested across 2 GW of global solar projects.

However, a bulk of its solar assets have already been transferred to the firm’s investment partner, Octopus Investments, which began refinancing millions of pounds worth of Lightsource’s solar plants in 2015, and is now sitting on more than 1 GW of solar PV capacity.

The developer’s role in the U.K. solar boom between 2014 and 2016 was pivotal. During the period, the country saw figures reaching 4.13 GW and 2.55 GW in 2015 and 2014, respectively, followed by a significant decline to 1.94 GW added in 2016, as the the ROC program was wound up and the new Contract for Differences scheme for large-scale renewable energy projects proved to be not particularly favorable for solar.

Downward trajectory

In 2017, the U.K. installation figures remained on the downward trajectory, with 912 MW added, representing a 54% decline in new capacity against 2016, as solar subsidy programs were scaled back further.

As the market subsided, Lightsource turned its focus to overseas expansion.

Nonetheless, it remained quite active at home too. Last year, it connected 50 MW of new solar capacity well ahead of the March 31 deadline for 1.2 ROC eligibility, and established a GBP 1 billion partnership with asset manager, BlackRock Real Assets to create a new venture called Kingfisher, which will target 1 GW of solar capacity in the U.K and beyond.

Recently, it played a vital role in strengthening solar ties with India, as it formed a fund management platform together with Indian private equity investor, Everstone, which will target GBP 500 million of investment in green infrastructure in India.