GRIDSERVE today announces the completion and hand over of the UK’s most advanced solar farm to Warrington Borough Council in a project which paves the way for a nationwide expansion of subsidy-free renewable power, to meet the UK’s net zero power commitments.
The 34.7MWp solar farm at York is the largest to be completed since 2016, and it is pioneering a new commercial model using 30 MWh of battery storage and sophisticated technologies to maximise revenues and help balance the grid – both during the day with direct solar generation and at night with energy stored in the 30MW battery.
The project, which generates enough energy to supply a town, also demonstrates how local authorities can partner with developers to deliver projects which cut carbon, supply clean electricity, and generate millions of pounds for councils to fund essential services.
Toddington Harper, CEO and founder of GRIDSERVE, said: “It’s our collective responsibility to prevent runaway climate change and protect species, so let’s be the change and make it happen. Projects like this, which also require no government subsidy whatsoever, demonstrate that the UK can meet its net zero obligations well before 2050 and enable us to move the needle in delivering radical carbon reductions within the next 10-years”.
“We’ve completely rethought the solar model to maximise value, and we’ve now demonstrated that we have what it takes to make projects like this a reality. To replicate this success, we are now looking to partner with additional landowners, developers, and to acquire project rights.”
In addition to the York hybrid solar project, Warrington Borough Council is also purchasing a second 25.7MWp solar farm at Hull, which is due to be handed over early next year. GRIDSERVE will operate and maintain both projects over their lifetimes to maximise system performance and value for the council.
Warrington expects the two projects to generate millions of pounds in profits every year and generate an operating surplus of over a hundred million pounds over 30 years to invest in essential services. Electricity from York hybrid solar farm will be sold on the open market while Hull will supply all the council’s energy needs. The deal will make it the first local authority to produce all its own electricity.
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “The completion of this groundbreaking project is a huge milestone for the council. This investment strengthens our commitment to tackle the climate emergency, and will also help us secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, and contribute to reducing fuel poverty.
“At the same time, the solar farm is an important part of our ‘invest to save’ programme, and we expect it to generate an operating surplus of millions of pounds that can be ploughed back into delivering vital council services.
“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with GRIDSERVE on this cutting-edge scheme and we are proud to have delivered the UKs most advanced solar farm. It’s great news for Warrington and also sets the bar for other local authorities in what can be achieved by working with the right partners, with a shared ambition.”
The York hybrid solar project, which produces enough energy to power more than 20,000 electric vehicles every year, was completed in just five months, a process documented in a breathtaking timelapse video. GRIDSERVE installed more than 90,000 solar panels, 30MWh of batteries and 500 kilometres of cable on the 198 acre site – an area the size of more than 100 football pitches.
The project demonstrates a number of “firsts” for the UK solar industry:
· It uses cutting edge technologies to increase solar generation by 20%. York hybrid solar farm is the first UK solar farm to use bifacial solar panels, which generate electricity on both sides. It is also the first large-scale UK project to use trackers which follow the sun, maximising generation over the whole day, and minimising pricing risk from solar farms with fixed solar panels, which typically produce peak output at the same time each day.
· It is able to control energy flows to maximise income and support the grid. Its 27MW(ac) lithium-ion battery storage system and two-way grid connection allows the project to store electricity to achieve better power prices and provide services that help National Grid balance supply and demand.
· 27MW(ac) Hybrid Solar-Battery energy project pioneers new grid connection Engineering Recommendation G99. This is the first “Type C” (greater than 10MW) project within Northern Powergrid’s network area, meaning GRIDSERVE was required to undertake challenging live witness tests to demonstrate dynamic voltage control, frequency response, and reactive power capability. York is one of the first and most complex generators in the UK to undertake these G99 tests, meaning new and unique implementation test plans were required to be drawn up. GRIDSERVE worked closely with the DNO and Power System Consultants to validate the system behaviour and will be applying these learnings to its pipeline of future project.
· It will support the electric vehicle revolution. Adjacent to the site GRIDSERVE plans to build one of the first of a network of over 100 Electric Forecourts® designed specifically for the needs of electric vehicle drivers. The Electric Forecourt® will offer convenient, ultra-fast, low-cost charging for private and fleet vehicles, supplied by the solar farm.
In order to connect York hybrid solar farm to the grid, GRIDSERVE has had to demonstrate full control over mitigating the project’s impact on grid voltage. Renewable generation fluctuates with the weather and changes in output can affect voltage, and GRIDSERVE was successful in demonstrating sub-second response times to stabilise the system.
Toddington Harper said: “to reach net zero power, the new generation of renewable energy projects must solve grid problems, not create them. With York hybrid solar farm, we have demonstrated a sustainable energy blueprint that truly puts renewable energy at the heart of delivering dependable, clean, low cost energy that we can all rely on.”
York solar farm has been built on low grade agricultural land at Boscar Grange, near Easingwold, north of the city. GRIDSERVE is now also working on plans to turn the 198-acre site into a nature sanctuary, incorporating planting wildflowers and numerous other biodiversity enhancements to help protect species.
GRIDSERVE is a tech-enabled sustainable energy business whose purpose is to deliver sustainable energy and move the needle on climate change. It has pioneered a Sun-to-Wheel ecosystem that includes the most advanced hybrid solar + battery farms, award-winning electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and a customer-centric electric vehicle leasing platform.