A new service for renewable energy developers and wind farm owners is being launched by environmental and engineering consultancy Wardell Armstrong.
Solar Wind is designed to optimise the full capacity of expensive grid connections by incorporating ground-mounted solar panels on the same site as wind turbines.
According to Wardell Armstrong, with an estimated total capacity of onshore wind across all stages of development now as high as 19,703MWe, planning permission is becoming more difficult to secure.
Returns can be high but are limited by turbines typically generating only around 35 per cent of their capacity because of variations in wind strength – even though grid connections are sized at maximum capacity.
“It makes perfect commercial sense to think about adding solar generation to existing or proposed wind farms,” said Wardell Armstrong regional director Neil Sutherland.
“Bolting on solar effectively takes advantage of a free grid connection. It can make good use of wasted capacity, improve the value of the site, increase the profitability of the project and enhance overall sustainability.
“It also makes solar viable right across the UK, including up to the north of Scotland. Any planning or community resistance may well also be lower on an existing site, since ground-mounted panels are much smaller in terms of visual envelope and impact. It could be the next big practical breakthrough in renewable energy.”
Wardell Armstrong’s new solar wind service follows months of researching wind and solar data at different sites and gaining interest from developers.
It involves a feasibility assessment, site design, a financial assessment of potential returns, and (if positive) the handling of planning proposal submissions including further detailed assessments such as landscape, ecology and archaeology.
It has been involved variously in assessing, securing permission and managing discharge conditions for more than 500MW of solar installations since 2009 – including the UK’s first consented solar park at a disused tin mine near Truro in Cornwall.
The new service will be formally launched at the RenewableUK 2013 annual conference and exhibition, being held at the NEC Birmingham on 5-7 November.