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What does the future hold for the use of Solar PV and what does it mean for developers seeking to develop large-scale solar projects?

BEIS has recently published a set of draft energy National Policy Statements (NPS) for consultation. This includes an NPS for renewable energy infrastructure (EN-3). This consultation is important for the energy sector as the new NSPs will set the framework for decision making for all large-scale energy projects which fall within the NSIP regime. This will increasingly include renewable energy projects.

The renewable energy NPS (EN-3) includes solar PV (Solar photovoltaic) for the first time in recognition of the growth and potential for large utility scale solar projects to provide low-carbon and low-cost electricity to the grid. When the original NPS was drafted in 2011 solar energy was considered to be unviable and too expensive for projects 50 MWs, the threshold for NSIP projects in England. Thanks to advances in technologies and falling costs, this is no longer the case and the NPS recognises that large scale solar has become a core part of the government’s plans to decarbonise our energy system.

By including solar PV, the revised NSP includes helpful policy to guide those who are developing solar projects over 50MWs and deals with the following impacts: biodiversity and nature conservation, landscape, visual and residential amenity, glint and glare, cultural heritage, construction, including traffic and transport noise and vibration. We are seeing an increasing trend in developing large scale solar projects since the grant of the first DCO for a 350 MW solar PV project at Cleve Hill, with a further pipeline of projects which are currently in the pre-application stage of the NSIP process.

The NSP also clears-up the AC/DC issue and clarifies that the generating capacity for a solar plant should be measured in AC, as opposed to DC. This is relevant for developers seeking to develop solar projects up to 50MWs to avoid going through the NSIP regime, but which would exceed the 50 MW threshold if the capacity was measured in DC. This is a question which can often be raised in due diligence.

The deadline for the consultation response is 29 November. Our Planning & Infrastructure Consents team have been actively involved in energy development consent orders (DCOs), having advised on over 15 energy NSIPs and are actively engaged on a large-scale renewable energy project. Please get in touch should you have any questions regarding the consultation or require support on the development of any current or future large-scale renewable generation projects.

Contact Lee for further information about this update or one of our energy specialists.