Expanding in Great Britain: Athos Solar completes five new photovoltaic systems


The solar parks in central England and Cornwall have a combined output of 26.5 megawatt-peak (MWp). Athos Solar invested nearly 30 million pounds (ca. 40 million euros) in the development and construction of the systems, which were initially financed with equity; negotiations with potential customers are currently in progress.

Athos Solar already expanded its operations in England in 2015, during which it brought online three new facilities, with a combined output of over 43 MWp. The first half of 2016 has been characterized by a seamless continuation of that positive trend, with four green-field systems being completed in Britain by the end of March.

The largest, and with 6 MWp also the most powerful facility lies in Caswell near Yeovil, County Somerset. In late March the ten-hectare park, installed on former farmland, commenced operation. The end of the first quarter of 2016 also saw the addition of two further facilities with 5 MWp output each: an eight-hectare park was erected in Gilleys Dam near St. Austell, County Cornwall, on a former waste disposal site. Its sister park in Peterlee near Newcastle upon Tyne, close to the Scottish border, is the same size, and both deliver power directly to nearby industrial customers: solar energy from Peterlee is supplied to a major construction equipment manufacturer, while the electricity produced in Gilleys Dam flows exclusively to Imerys Minerals Ltd, the world’s largest clay mining company.

Further high-performance systems in northern England

“Of course, direct industrial customers offer perfect partners,” explains Christian Linder, CEO of Athos Solar. “Moreover, the solar park in Peterlee, northern England proves that Great Britain – despite all the clichés about its poor weather – is a solid candidate for solar energy production. In fact, our facilities in Britain often put out only 5 per cent less energy than their counterparts in Germany.” The same is true for the system in Short Hazel near Burton upon Trent in County Staffordshire, which started operations at the end of the first quarter; with 5 MWp, it represents the maximum output eligible for funding in England.

A fifth green-field system that Athos has been working on since April in Deepdale near Sleaford, County Lincolnshire, will also deliver 5 MWp, and is slated to be brought online at the end of June, after just two months construction time. According to Linder, “This demonstrates how quickly we and our partners can now get high-performance green-field systems up and running. And that’s because the backing of our financially powerful investor, the Weidenhammer-Group-Heidelberg, gives us the freedom to cover the initial outlay for major projects and implement them at short notice.” Negotiations for the sale of the solar parks portfolio are now underway.