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Britain’s Largest Solar Array Connects to Grid

By Katie Anderson on June 27, 2011

The largest array of solar panels in Britain has been connected to the National Grid, supplying ‘green’ energy to the Howbery Business Park in Oxfordshire.

Approximately one quarter of the business park’s energy needs will be provided by the array, which consists of 3,000 solar PV panels generating around 682 MWh per year. The equivalent carbon saving is estimated to be in the region of 350 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

The business park should be able to benefit from the feed-in tariff scheme (FITs), which provides a fixed rate of pay for electricity supplied to the National Grid that has been derived from clean renewable sources.

Derry Newman, of Solarcentury, the firm that supplied Howbery Business Park with the solar panels, said: “Solar works on daylight, not necessarily [direct] sunlight and it gets light every day in Britain. Of course, it generates more on a very bright day than a dull day.

“If you average over the year, the amount of cumulative daylight, energy per square metre, is very well known and is very predictable. Over the life of the system, the amount of energy produced is very predictable”.

Mr Newman’s comments counter many of those raised by ‘green sceptics’, some of whom reason that solar technology is more or less useless in Britain, which is hardly renowned for its favourable climate. As an area’s average annual exposure to sunlight is calculable and, therefore, predictable, it is possible to estimate with reasonable accuracy the amount of energy that is likely to be generated over a year.

The Government’s recent review of feed-in tariffs meant that organisations generating more than 50kW of electricity would receive a lower rate for energy supplied to the Grid. Mr Newman believes the Howbery Business Park development will be one of the last of its kind unless the feed-in tariffs are revised again.

Mr Newman said: “[The change to FITs] means that virtually all investors have withdrawn from financing such developments. There were probably many hundreds lined up for development across the country. They’re pretty much all cancelled now because of the fast track review. This type of installation will be a relative rarity for a few years”.