The UK’s first floating solar farm has been installed on a reservoir in Berkshire.
The 800-panel photo-voltaic project was constructed at Sheeplands Farm near Wargrave. It cost £250,000 and has a capacity of 200KW.
The farm’s owner, Mark Bennett, has arranged the deal with French firm Ciel et Terre, which has developed the floating technology. He plans to promote the concept through his newly-formed company, Floating Solar UK.
Ciel et Terre built a pilot farm in the south of France in 2011, and has since exported the technology. They are used on a large scale in Japan, where work on the world’s largest floating solar farm began earlier this month, with a capacity of 1.7MW.
The Berkshire farm is also built using Ciel et Terre’s Hydrelio concept, a modular system which joins together PV panels. A basic module is formed from two blow-moulded floats made with HDPE (high-density polythene) plastic. One float supports the solar panel and the other provides a tab connection to other floats, and also provides maintenance access. The floats are then joined together to form solar ‘islands’, using connection pins.
The floating farms use various anchoring systems, depending on the characteristic of each site. They can be anchored to the banks or to a steel anchor attached to the lake bed.
Ciel et Terre believes the system is best suited for unused stretches of water, such as reservoirs.
Bennett said he has had strong interest in the technology for use elsewhere in the UK, including from major water companies.
“We are speaking to big utility companies, to agricultural companies - anyone with an unused body of water. The potential is remarkable,” he said.
Bennett said future projects could be 100 times bigger than the Sheeplands Farm scheme.
He expects to earn £20,500 a year in consumer-funded subsidies for the power it produces over the next 20 years, and he will save about £24,000 a year by no longer having to buy the power from the grid for his farm