UK’s first floating solar farm starts generating energy and revenue

An 800-panel solar installation on a reservoir within Sheeplands Farm’s 300 acre argricultral property near Wargrave, Berkshire, is expected to pay for itself within six years and deliver profits of at least £620,000 over 20 years.

The installation uses four 20 kW and four 27.6 kW three-phase ABB TRIO string inverters to transform the solar energy harnessed into usable electricity whose performance is montitored via ABB’s Aurora Vision monitoring system. “Aurora is easy to use and gives me enough in-depth and real-time data to address any issues before they significantly affect my yields,” says Mark Bennett, CEO of Floating Solar UK.

“To get the returns I expect, reliability is key” adds Bennett. “The more downtime you have, the less efficient and less profitable it becomes.

“I chose ABB for this innovative application at Sheeplands because their inverters have given me excellent uptime in other green projects I’d used them for. Also, it was also good to have the reassurance of a global company that would not only stand behind its products in the decades to come, but also one which was already known and trusted by my other target customers.”

With solar field farm subsidies being tightened up by Government, Floating Solar UK is pioneering the use of solar panels on “functional reservoirs” – those used for irrigation or drinking water and is relying on ABB technology to give it the reliability such projects need to deliver the expected long term returns. The company has had significant interest already from large utilities and construction aggregate companies possessing unused bodies of water they would like to put to more lucrative use.

“We see a good market in the UK for utilities and quarries with idle bodies of water to cut their energy costs through energy self consumption facilitated by innovative floating solar projects similar to this one,” observes Bradley Morgan, Technical Engineer with ABB’s solar business. “Some may even generate an additional revenue stream by selling unused power back to the grid.”

Given that no earnings from valuable land has to be sacrificed to make space for floating solar installations, the scope for such projects is expected to rise steadily throughout the next decade.

Installations at water utility and quarries around the UK could be up to 100 times larger than Sheeplands Farm and are still profitable for companies – despite the government’s recent efforts to rein back renewable subsidies.