Quinbrook acquires UK’s largest consented solar-plus-storage site

50MW JBM solar-plus-storage site given green light

Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners has acquired the 350MW Cleve Hill solar-plus-storage site in Kent, UK, with this expected to be the largest single site PV install in the UK once completed.

Construction of the site, which has been renamed Project Fortress, is expected to start in H2 2022, having been consented by the energy secretary in May 2020. It is considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) as a result of its size, which Quinbrook is claiming to be three times that of the UK’s next largest consented PV project.

The battery storage is to be 150MW, with a two hour duration; this is to provide critical support to improve security and reliability for the UK power grid, Quinbrook said.

The £450 million project was originally developed as a joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol, and faced significant public opposition as well as an attempt by Swale Borough Council to get its development consent overturned. It was the first ever solar project to be approved through the NSIP process, having been originally submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in 2017.

Several other projects are now to go through the NSIP process, including BayWa r.e.’s 163MW solar project in South Derbyshire, which is to incorporate a 37.5MW battery energy storage system and is expected to go through the NSIP process in late 2022.

Rory Quinlan, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook, said: “The acute power price volatility and security of energy supply concerns we have seen in the UK these past weeks highlight how critical new capacity investment in the UK will be to deliver the energy transition without further disruption. We plan for Fortress to play its part in helping to improve energy independence for the UK.”

Quinbrook is also planning on applying several innovations at the site for real-time measurement and reporting of carbon emissions in the UK power grid, and the 24/7 tracing and tracking of the renewable provenance of the power solar to the project’s offtaker.

The investment manager is to use advanced blockchain and other applications to deliver a complete carbon reporting service to assist customers with tracking progress against their net zero goals and their compliance obligations with TCFD and related carbon reporting.

There is to be a focus on opportunities for involvement of local companies in the construction and operations supply chain, as well as the ability for local residents to access employment opportunities associated with construction and operation and the ability for research organisations to use Fortress to enable technical research and innovation in the renewable energy sector.

Indeed, Quinbrook’s preliminary analysis indicates that during the project’s expected lifetime it could support around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute in excess of £100 million in local socio-economic contributions from lease payments to landowners and local taxes.

Quinbrook has developed a landscape and biodiversity management plan for the site in collaboration with Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, RSPB and the Environment Agency. This plan will add over 3.5km of native hedgerow screen planting across the site, as well as look to deliver a net gain of 65% in biodiversity.

Project Fortress follows Quinbrook’s Gemini solar and battery storage project in Nevada, US, which is currently under construction and consists of 690MW of solar PV and 380MW of battery storage. Developed by Quinbrook portfolio company Primergy Solar, the Gemini project is to cost US$1.1 billion.

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