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The UK’s largest solar farm has been built and successfully connected and commissioned at the site of a former World War II airfield in Leicestershire.
The 34MWp solar project at Wymeswold Airfield was developed by Lark Energy (www.larkenergy.co.uk) and the landowner Prestwold Estates and was funded and is owned by Hazel Capital.
Consisting of some 130,000 solar panels positioned on land between the old runways, and covering an area of c.150 acres, the project was built in less than 8 weeks and was connected and commissioned before changes in ROCs took place at the end of March 2013.
The airfield is currently being used for a mixture of agricultural, leisure and sporting uses. These include a driving experience operator, which uses a race track running directly through the solar farm development, an HGV training centre, a kite club, and various athletics and equestrian events. None of the current users are affected by the operational solar farm, demonstrating how a solar farm can co-exist successfully with other land uses.
Lark Energy developed the site and worked closely with the Prestwold Estate, Charnwood Borough Council, the local parish councils and the local community in developing its plans and received planning permission at a council planning committee on 8 November 2012.
Hazel Capital financed the construction of the £35 million project and S.A.G. Solarstrom led the construction with the assistance of Lark Energy, Modus Utilities and Prestwold Farm and its local contractors. Western Power Distribution, the distribution network operator, was instrumental in enabling the project to be connected to the electricity network.
The solar farm builds on Lark Energy’s track record of developing and constructing some 60MWp of solar projects over the past two years. The company will shortly start construction on a further 65MWp of consented projects.
Hazel Capital and the funds it manages have financed over 110MW of ground-mounted solar PV projects since 2011.
Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Lark Energy, commented: “Lark Energy has been delighted to work with the Prestwold Estate and Hazel Capital in developing this unique project. As the largest solar farm in the UK, the project has not been without its challenges, both technical and weather related. It is a testament to the teamwork of the various parties involved in its development and delivery that it was completed and connected on time.
“We are committed to developing a large portfolio of solar projects in the UK over the coming years and see a bright future for this growing industry”.
Edward Packe-Drury-Lowe, estate manager said: “It has been a pleasure working with the team at Lark Energy to develop the site. Prestwold Farms and other local contractors were pleased to work closely with Hazel Capital and SAG Solarstrom to enable the delivery of the project on time and were assisted ably by our land agents Mather Jamie. The solar park will add another diversification to the Prestwold Estate with energy joining food production and leisure”.
Ben Guest, managing partner of Hazel Capital, stated “We are delighted to be involved in this large, first-of-its-kind project in the UK. We believe that larger industrial sites make great locations for solar projects going forward in the UK. I want to thank Edward Packe-Drury-Lowe, Lark Energy, SAG Solarstrom, Western Power Distribution and the Hazel Capital team for their huge effort in getting this project finished on time.”