UKÂ’s first commercial solar farm approved

ST. KEW, ENGLAND - The UK's first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic PV plant could be up and running by April, following Cornwall Council's granting permission for the project.

The plant will have a generating capacity of 1.8 megawatts MW, enough to power about 800 homes, and is among the first of a new wave of solar projects expected to go ahead in the southwest region of the UK this year.

The Benbole Energy Farm will be located on a 10-acre site near St. Kew and will be constructed by Silicon Vineyard, a joint venture company owned by Renewable Energy Consortium and the University of Exeter College Enterprises. It is the first of a planned rollout of 14 solar energy farms across Cornwall and the UK worth an estimated 53.1 million euros US $69 million.

Construction on the Benbole farm is expected to get under way this month, and the plant could be producing power as early as April. About 800 panels will be erected at about 2.5 metres above the ground to help reduce its visual impact.

"Securing planning approval for the development has taken a little longer than we anticipated, but we are doing something completely unique in the region," said Silicon Vineyard Programme Director Shane Bond speaking recently about the Benbole project. "We are setting the benchmark for similar applications, so getting it right is really important."

He added: "At Silicon Vineyard we are committed to building a viable and sustainable commercial solar energy industry in the UK. As the UK market leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure our designs and plans for development of solar PV farms are of the highest standards."

Last September, the UK's first solar park was given the green light for construction at a disused tin mine in Cornwall. The 1.55-MW plant will be built by solar developer 35 Degrees and will have 5,700 solar panels mounted on 2-metre frames that will generate 1.25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough for about 300 homes.

In November, Eco Sustainable Solutions revealed plans to build a larger 5-MW solar farm in the Dorset region of southwest England. The Parley Solar Farm will utilize 30,000 solar panels to generate enough energy to meet the electricity needs of 1,100 homes. Also in November, German solar power company juwi Group announced plans to build a network of more than 60 MW of solar farms in south of the UK.


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