Cleve Hill, the U.K.’s largest-ever solar project, received its government planning approvals this week. The question is how the 350-megawatt development proceeds from here in a large-scale solar market that has all but died out. Located in southeastern England, along the North Kent coast, Cleve Hill is under development by Hive Energy and Wirsol. The developers say they will not seek any government subsidy and will not participate in the contracts for difference (CFD) auction next year. The project, which may include a substantial amount of battery storage, will be built near the existing grid infrastructure used by the London Array offshore wind farm, once the largest in the world.
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The project will be unsubsidised, helping to highlight the strength of the solar sector since the closure of the feed-in tariff in 2019. As Solar Trade Association chief exectutive Chris Hewett confirmed in a recent chat with Solar Power Portal, subsidy free solar has now become the new normal in the UK. “Ultimately, the decision by BEIS is possible because there are no subsidies for UK solar today, and even if there were, a project of this size would never qualify in the first place,” Colville added. “The risk is all with the developers, Hive and Wirsol: but the rewards are massive when site ownership is passed over after the project is completed.” But while the approval of the Cleve Hill Solar Park is undoubtedly significant, whether it actually is built is “still an open question”, he continues. “Governments around the world are granting unsubsidised projects planning approval all the time, especially if there is no commitment on subsidies being paid for 20-plus years. Only some of these ever get built, and the large projects can be delayed often by a few years compared to original plans.”
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