Warrington first local authority to produce all of its own electricity with completion of hybrid solar farm

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York hybrid solar project (Picture by GRIDSERVE.)

GRIDSERVE has completed a ‘game-changing’ hybrid solar farm for Warrington Borough Council.

Referred to as the UK’s ‘largest and most technically advanced solar and battery storage project’, the farm delivers power day and night and provides multiple services to help keep the grid reliable.

Toddington Harper, CEO and founder of GRIDSERVE, commented on the completion: “It’s our collective responsibility to prevent runaway climate change and protect species, so let’s be the change and make it happen.

“Projects like this, which also require no government subsidy whatsoever, demonstrate that the UK can meet its net zero obligations well before 2050 and enable us to move the needle in delivering radical carbon reductions within the next 10-years.

“To reach net zero power, the new generation of renewable energy projects must solve grid problems, not create them.

“With York hybrid solar farm, we have demonstrated a sustainable energy blueprint that truly puts renewable energy at the heart of delivering dependable, clean, low cost energy that we can all rely on.

“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.”

The 34.7MWp solar farm at York is the largest to be completed since 2016, and it is pioneering a new commercial model using 30 MWh of battery storage and sophisticated technologies to maximise revenues and help balance the grid – both during the day with direct solar generation and at night with energy stored in the 30MW battery.

The project, which generates enough energy to supply a town, also demonstrates how local authorities can partner with developers to deliver projects which cut carbon, supply clean electricity, and generate millions of pounds for councils to fund essential services.

In addition to the York hybrid solar project, Warrington Borough Council is also purchasing a second 25.7MWp solar farm at Hull, which is due to be handed over early next year.

GRIDSERVE will operate and maintain both projects over their lifetimes.

Warrington expects the two projects to generate millions of pounds in profits every year and generate an operating surplus of over a hundred million pounds over 30 years to invest in essential services.

Electricity from York hybrid solar farm will be sold on the open market while Hull will supply all the council’s energy needs.

The deal will make it the first local authority to produce all its own electricity.

Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “The completion of this groundbreaking project is a huge milestone for the council.

“This investment strengthens our commitment to tackle the climate emergency, and will also help us secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, and contribute to reducing fuel poverty.

“At the same time, the solar farm is an important part of our ‘invest to save’ programme, and we expect it to generate an operating surplus of millions of pounds that can be ploughed back into delivering vital council services.

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with GRIDSERVE on this cutting-edge scheme and we are proud to have delivered the UK’s most advanced solar farm.

“It’s great news for Warrington and also sets the bar for other local authorities in what can be achieved by working with the right partners, with a shared ambition.”

The York hybrid solar project, which produces enough energy to power more than 20,000 electric vehicles every year, was completed in just five months.

GRIDSERVE installed more than 90,000 solar panels, 30MWh of batteries and 500 kilometres of cable on the 198 acre site.

The project is said to demonstrate a number of ‘firsts’ for the UK solar industry:

· It uses ‘cutting-edge’ technologies to increase solar generation by 20%. York hybrid solar farm is the first UK solar farm to use bifacial solar panels, which generate electricity on both sides. It is also the first large-scale UK project to use trackers which follow the sun, maximising generation over the whole day, and minimising pricing risk from solar farms with fixed solar panels, which typically produce peak output at the same time each day.

· It is able to control energy flows to maximise income and support the grid. Its 27MW(ac) lithium-ion battery storage system and two-way grid connection allows the project to store electricity to achieve better power prices and provide services that help National Grid balance supply and demand.

· 27MW(ac) Hybrid Solar-Battery energy project pioneers new grid connection Engineering Recommendation G99. This is the first “Type C” (greater than 10MW) project within Northern Powergrid’s network area, meaning GRIDSERVE was required to undertake challenging live witness tests to demonstrate dynamic voltage control, frequency response, and reactive power capability. York is one of the first and most complex generators in the UK to undertake these G99 tests, meaning new and unique implementation test plans were required to be drawn up. GRIDSERVE worked closely with the District Network Operator and Power System Consultants to validate the system behaviour and will be applying these learnings to its pipeline of future project.

· It will support the electric vehicle revolution. Adjacent to the site GRIDSERVE plans to build one of the first of a network of over 100 Electric Forecourts® designed specifically for the needs of electric vehicle drivers. The Electric Forecourt® will offer convenient, ultra-fast, low-cost charging for private and fleet vehicles, supplied by the solar farm.

In order to connect York hybrid solar farm to the grid, GRIDSERVE has had to demonstrate full control over mitigating the project’s impact on grid voltage. Renewable generation fluctuates with the weather and changes in output can affect voltage, and GRIDSERVE was successful in demonstrating sub-second response times to stabilise the system.

York solar farm has been built on low grade agricultural land at Boscar Grange, near Easingwold, north of the city.

GRIDSERVE is now also working on plans to turn the 198-acre site into a nature sanctuary, incorporating planting wildflowers and numerous other biodiversity enhancements to help protect species.