GRIDSERVE has completed the development of the “UK’s most technically advanced hybrid solar and battery farm” in Cirencester, the company said. The 23MWp DC coupled solar and battery farm includes more than 43,000 bifacial solar panels, plus 51MWh of energy storage. It is the third such farm to be handed over to Warrington Borough Council making it the “first local authority in the UK to produce all of its own electricity”, it claimed. By using bifacial panels coupled with sun trackers for the renewable energy generation, the farm will have an increased efficiency by around 20% compared to traditional technologies. “It is our collective responsibility to tackle the climate change emergency. Projects like Cirencester Hybrid Solar Farm require no government subsidy and deliver secure, affordable and plentiful energy,” said Toddington Harper, CEO of GRIDSERVE. “They demonstrate that the UK can meet its net zero obligations, and in partnership with Warrington Borough Council, enable us to deliver radical carbon reductions to move the needle on climate change in the fastest possible timeframes, and at the lowest cost.” The first of these “game changing” hybrid solar-plus-storage projects had been developed in York, 2019, which at the time became the first utility-scale solar farm in the UK to use both trackers and bifacial solar panels.
The 34.7MWp solar farm had been co-located with a 27MW battery, enabling what the renewable developer labelled as a “pioneering” new commercial model for solar in the UK. At the time, Harper said: “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.” More than 90,000 bifacial panels supplied by Suntech make up the energy generation element of the site, with single-axis trackers supplied by Nextracker used to shift the generation portfolio of the solar farm. Sungrow inverters and Samsung batteries complete the array’s technology suite. This project had also been handed to Warrington Council upon its completion. “The completion of Cirencester Hybrid Solar Farm is great news for Warrington. It will provide a huge boost to our ongoing work to tackle the climate emergency, reduce greenhouse emissions, and tackle fuel poverty in our borough. It will also provide enough net zero carbon energy to charge our fleet of all-electric buses when they are rolled-out next year,” said Cllr Janet Henshaw, cabinet member for sustainability and climate change at Warrington Borough Council. “Investing in subsidy-free developments has been a landmark achievement for the Council. Each project has proven to be a solid strategic decision to ensure the borough’s future energy security. We look forward to working with GRIDSERVE to ensure Cirencester Hybrid Solar Farm continues to generate optimal financial and environmental returns.” GRIDSERVE entered into a partnership with Hitachi Capital (UK) In April 2020 which saw the latter make a multi-million-pound investment through a loan facility. Hitachi’s loan facility will help fund projects including two hybrid solar farms in Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire.