500 MW solar-plus-storage project under development in the UK

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Sunnica Energy, a venture under UK-based companies Tribus and PS Renewables, has requested environmental approval for what could become the U.K.’s largest PV power plant, the 500 MW Sunnica Energy Farm.

According to a document published by the U.K. National Infrastructure Planning Service, the project will consist of two sections: the Sunnica East site, located south of Worlington in West Suffolk, and the Sunnica West site, located south of Chippenham in East Cambridgeshire. The electricity generated by the two facilities will be exported from on-site substations to the Burwell National Grid Substation, which is located approximately 11km to the southwest of Sunnica East and approximately 7km to the west of Sunnica West. The document also reveals that construction is scheduled to start in 2022, subject to approval and a final investment decision, with completion planned by spring 2025.

“It is anticipated that the scheme could be either be built in phases over approximately three years, or constructed over a continuous period,” the document reads. “At this stage, it is considered that a construction program of approximately 15 months could be achieved if the scheme was built in one continuous phase.”

As for the solar and storage technologies to be used in the project, the document says the parameters of the Development Consent Order (DCO) will maintain flexibility to allow the latest technologies to be utilized at the time of construction. The storage systems, however, are expected to feature lithium-ion batteries, while the modules may range in power from 250 W to 400 W or more, depending on advances in technology by the time of construction.

The authors of the report also say the plant will rely on central inverters, although they have not ruled out the potential use of string inverters. “There are a number of different designs for the battery energy storage system that will be explored as part of the iterative design process,” they stated. “The precise number of individual battery storage containers will depend upon the level of power capacity and duration of energy storage that the scheme will require; investigations are ongoing to determine this.”

If built, the Sunnica Energy Farm will be the U.K.’s largest solar power plant and will compete with other projects under development throughout the world to claim the title of the largest PV facility to include large-scale storage. By the expected date of completion, however, this project may not be big enough to compete with other recently announced large installations, including a 1.5 GW solar project and 500 MWh battery system launched last month in Australia.

*the article was amended on Mar. 28, 2019, to specify that the project’s developers do not include German company Wirsol, as previously reported.