First Solar, Inc. and BELECTRIC announced that they have broken ground on a new 46 megawatt (MWDC) utility-scale power plant, in Oxfordshire, Southern England. When completed, the facility will produce 45 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean solar electricity per year, sufficient to power approximately 14,000 average homes or approximately 25% of the estimated 55,400 households in the city of Oxford.
The project is the fourth to be executed in the United Kingdom (UK) under a First Solar and BELECTRIC joint venture, announced in 2013. With its recently built solar farms in Wiltshire and East Anglia, the JV is expecting to reach a total capacity of 80 MWDC in the UK. Together, the farms generate almost 80 million kWh of clean energy per year, while displacing an estimated 35,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year.
“This latest project is a clear indication of the fact that dramatic efficiency gains and increased cost competitiveness, particularly those driven by First Solar, have created an undeniable tipping point for solar power, not only in the UK but around the world. There is no doubt that, thanks to the UK’s renewable energy roadmap, solar PV will help reinforce the country’s efforts to address its need for sustained energy independence,” said Christopher Burghardt, Vice President for Europe at First Solar.
More than 483,000 of First Solar’s advanced thin film modules will be used to power the facility, while BELECTRIC is responsible for the construction and the Balance-of-Systems (BoS) requirements. By displacing 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year, the plant will help to maximize the share of climate-friendly power generation in the UK. The project will be in compliance with stringent sustainability standards designed to minimize its impact in the local environment, and to support biodiversity initiatives. Furthermore the land under the solar farm will continue to remain in food production, with sheep grazing the site as was the case before the project was constructed.
“By combining First Solar’s best-in-class thin film modules and components with our industry-leading BoS and construction techniques, we are effectively helping to realize the vast potential of fast developing solar markets, such as the UK,” said Martin Zembsch, Chief Sales Officer, BELECTRIC. “This project, and the others before it, demonstrates that we can remain competitive in a wide range of regulatory environments thanks to our singular focus on quality, reliability and competitiveness.”
“When we connect this project in the coming months, it will be the UK’s largest and most technologically advanced solar energy plant, incorporating the latest innovations delivered by both BELECTRIC and First Solar,” said Toddington Harper, CEO of BELECTRIC UK. “To put it in context, this single project will produce enough secure, home-grown, solar energy to drive an electric vehicle over 200 million kilometers per year, or the equivalent of approximately 260 round trips to the moon. Combined with the fact that the land under the solar arrays will remain in agricultural use, with areas set aside to support biodiversity, this is a prime example of the multiple benefits that best-in-class solar farm projects can deliver to the UK.”
First Solar and BELECTRIC share a longstanding relationship that spans over a decade. In 2013, they realized Europe’s largest thin film PV power plant in Templin, Germany. Bringing together industry-leading capabilities and technologies, the two groups established a joint venture to realize selected utility-scale PV projects in Europe, North Africa and the United States.