Another 5MW solar park to be built for Cornwall, thanks to falling solar prices

5MW solar farm to be built in Cornwall

by James Martin II on September 11, 2012

After a series of setbacks, Cornwall Council is planning to go ahead with construction of a 5 megawatt (MW) solar park near Newquay airport. The original plan to build the Kernow Solar Park was shelved last autumn when the UK Government abruptly reduced the national Solar Feed-in Tariff ahead of schedule, but Cornwall Council has deemed that the project is once again worthy of investment.

The fact that the Kernow plant is going ahead is testament to just how much the economic outlook for solar PV technology–which was just a year ago significantly more reliant on government support–has changed. The Council has reassessed the economic viability the project in light of the falling cost of solar PV technology, which has improved the attractiveness of investing in large-scale solar projects even in the absence of a generous Feed-in Tariff.

The industry still has some way to go before being able to stand on its own 2 feet, however. In addition to support from the Feed-in Tariff, large-scale solar projects such as the Kernow plant are also supported by Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which must be purchased by heavy polluters created by certified renewable energy plants.

Cornwall's 5MW Cornwall Solar Park

Cornwall’s 5MW Cornwall Solar Park. (Image credit: Isolux Corsan.)

Cornwall is home to some of the highest levels of solar irradiation in the UK, and the Kernow Solar Park won’t be the first of its size in the area. Last year the Council moved swiftly to capitalise on this abundant natural resource and government incentives, building 3x 5MW solar plants at Langform, Churchtown and Manor, and making the deadline for the previous Feed-in Tariff rates. These plants are therefore earning more per kilowatt-hour of solar power sent to the grid than will their soon-to-be-built counterpart near the airport, but also cost significantly more to construct.

Official responses to the news noted the environmental benefits of the project. “The plan is for the solar park to supply power to the National Grid, but also directly to the council-owned Newquay airport. This will help to reduce the airport’s carbon footprint and save money,” said Cornwall Councillor John Fitter.

Cornwall is has the highest rates of solar irradiation in the UK

Cornwall is has the highest rates of solar irradiation in the UK. (Click to enlarge.)

Newquay airport managing director Al Titterington was enthusiastic about the project’s greenhouse gas abatement potential. “The power supplied from the solar farm will greatly assist the airport’s aspiration to make our operations carbon neutral, helping us to become one of the UK’s greenest airports. We are working towards certification through the Airports Council International (ACI) Carbon Accreditation Scheme and being able to source our electricity directly from the solar farm will reduce emissions,” he was quoted as saying in ThisIsTheWestCountry.

© Solar Selections Ltd 2012

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gemma Turner January 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

It is good that Cornwall Council is trying to help Newquay airport to become carbon neutral, but rather than put good land under panels, would it not be better to cover the roof of the airport with solar panels, and also the roof of County Hall?

If Cornwall County Council has any influence at government level, is it not time that grants should be given to utilise the thousand of acres of space on domestic and commercial properties for solar panels, rather than using valuable farm land?

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Solar Selections January 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Hi Gemma,

Thanks for your comment. You bring up a very good point, and one that’s becoming a more and more prominently discussed issue. The UK does need to balance the need for food production with energy security–both are critical issues for the UK’s future.

The DECC has made some moves to address this matter, introducing a higher incentive rate for rooftop medium-scale solar installations than for ground-mounted ones. Additionally, local counties may have different zoning restrictions on whether or not panels may be put up and if so, on what type of land.

Incentive programs are continually evolving to reflect the needs of society, and it is likely that there will be a decline in the number of ground-mounted ‘solar farm‘ installations on arable land as time goes on and more in brownfields. As it stands, however, the overall rate of land being taken up by solar panels at this point is quite small as a proportion of total viable farmland.

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