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A European energy firm has announced that it will help the UK end its reliance on natural gas exports with a new project that combines solar power, battery storage, onshore wind and sustainable farming. RWE Renewables, a German firm, has announced that they intend to expand their solar farms into the UK, with early planning for the project currently located on land in south Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire. Russia’s manipulation of wholesale natural gas supplies over the past year has led countries across Europe, including the UK, to invest heavily in renewable energy sources like solar and offshore wind.
Aside from helping the UK end its vulnerability to natural gas prices, renewable energy has been tipped to be able to help Britons save on their energy bills, particularly as analysis has shown that offshore wind is nine times cheaper than natural gas.
RWE’s new project, named Tween Bridge Solar Farm, recently secured a capacity agreement with National Grid, which they described as “a vital next step in a green energy development which aims to provide thousands of homes and businesses with renewable electricity.”
This site is expected to be located to the east of Thorne, and could have a possible generation capacity of up to 600MW which is expected to be operational by 2029.
The company noted that since this solar farm would be located next to their existing Tween Bridge onshore Wind Farm, they would not need to build any additional overhead power lines or other network infrastructure.
German energy firm plots major UK expansion with new site to power ‘thousands of homes’
A map of RWE’s new project
Katja Wünschel, CEO of Onshore Wind and Solar Europe & Australia of RWE Renewables commented, ”Solar in combination with battery storage fits well into RWE’s UK development portfolio, where we already generate 15 percent of the country’s energy needs.
“Our strategy is geared towards sustainability and the vigorous expansion of large scale solar will be part of these ambitions.”
RWE noted that once completed, the site would simultaneously host a solar farm, an onshore wind farm, battery storage, and animal husbandry, with plans to turn the site into one of the largest lowland sheep farms in the country.
Over the past few months, solar farms have become the subject of controversy, after former Prime Minister Liz Truss announced plans to ban the construction of solar panels on land that was suitable for farming.
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The cost of renewable energy is falling
RWE noted that no additional infrastructure will be needed to connect the site
This plan was torn apart by experts, who pointed out that even under the Government’s current plans to scale up solar power, this would only bring that figure up to 0.3 percent of all UK land, and just 0.5 percent of all land used for farming. According to an analysis from Carbon Brief, this accounts for roughly half of the space taken up by golf courses.
Meanwhile, research by the think tank Green Alliance found that in the UK, biofuel production, which involves growing crops specifically for burning as fuel, uses 77 times more arable land than farmland used for solar panels.
Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and former leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas tweeted: “Utterly bewildering Government attack on solar farms. Solar is a win-win for energy and food security – it’s nine times cheaper than climate-wrecking oil and gas (and much faster to deploy too), and fields with solar panels can still produce food. Who’s behind these nonsensical Government plans?”
But the Green MP was far from the only outraged voice, with Greenpeace UK writing: “With energy bills at an all-time high, why on earth are they sabotaging cheap renewable energy?”
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Former Prime Minister Liz Truss had announced plans to ban solar farms
This comes as last week, Octopus Energy, a major UK-based firm, announced that it had acquired a renewable energy company that has been planning to develop more than 100 solar projects around the UK.
Octopus announced its acquisition of UK solar developer and asset manager Zestec Renewable Energy, which is planning to build cheap solar power on British businesses’ roofs, with the goal of driving down energy bills.
Zestec has 160 Megawatts of new UK solar energy projects in the pipeline, which will be sold to organizations in need of the energy source via so-called power purchase agreements (PPA).
Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Generation, said: “There’s a significant untapped opportunity in the UK to generate more cheap green power from businesses’ rooftops. This space is fast-growing and it’ll help bring more energy security and lower energy bills, all while allowing companies to reduce their carbon emissions.”