Solar farms: how we create one
Green Nation develops and operates solar farms that are funded by investors with an interest in renewable energy.
We identify sites, agree a long-term lease with the landowner, gain the permissions required for a solar farm, raise the finance, agree a Power Purchase Agreement for the sale of electricity, then select and oversee the work of the main contractor that builds the site. And finally, we operate the site to optimise electricity production and ensure a good return on investment.
Solar farms are ground-mounted solar installations made up of solar panels fixed to metal frames and arranged in rows across an unshaded section of land. A typical solar farm produces peak renewable electricity output measured in the megawatts. We design them to blend into the countryside where they cause no disturbance and make no noise.
Sites should ideally be brownfield land, or low-grade agricultural land, with a connection to the electricity grid available nearby. If they are agricultural land, they can be grazed by sheep once the solar farm is in operation.
Once planning and other permissions have been obtained, it takes three to four months to build a solar farm and connect it to the grid. The site will then operate for at least 25 years.
The benefits for the landowner include:
- Guaranteed index-linked income for 25 years
- Valuable use of lower grade land
- Biodiversity benefits from non-intensive usage
- Opportunity to graze the land
At the end of the lease all evidence of the solar farm will be removed and the land restored back to its original state.
If you have land that you think has potential as a solar farm site, please contact us here.
Solar farms: how we manage one
Once we build a solar farm, it will generate a steady income for 25 years, as long as it is managed with care.
Green Nation currently manages five solar farms, with capacity ranging from 3.4 MW – 11 MW. Our job is to meet our promises to the investors who fund the installations and to the landowners who both expect to receive a return from them.
Our roles include:
- Output monitoring - a solar farm produces information on performance every few minutes. Green Nation monitors output daily and reviews performance hour by hour and inverter by inverter
- Oversight of maintenance and repair contractors
- Landscaping and sheep grazing contracts
- Sales contract negotiation and management
- Revenue collection
- Management accounts
- Supervision of audit
- Companies House returns
We report back to investors twice a year to let them know how well their assets are performing.
Case Study: Monksham Solar Farm 10.7 MW
Monksham Farm is in the hamlet of Marston Bigot, just outside Frome, Somerset. Green Nation was first introduced to the landowners, Rachel and Patrick Twigger in Autumn 2012.
Green Nation signed an option agreement for a lease in January 2013 after securing an offer of a grid connection from the network operator Scottish & Southern Electricity (SSE).
We submitted a planning application in May 2013 and received consent in September.
Preparations for build included commissioning reinforcement works by SSE to enable the solar farm to connect to the grid, agreeing with Somerset Highways the best route into this rural site for delivery vehicles, and getting permission to lay a cable under a local lane to reach the Point of Connection to the grid. Unusually, no archaeological investigation was necessary.
Build started in early January 2014 with Goldbeck as main contractor. Despite it being one of the wettest winters on record, the site was commissioned at the end of March, only a few days late.
Following completion, Green Nation commissioned extensive planting around the site boundaries which, combined with the relatively flat landscape on and around the site, minimises its visual impact on the surrounding countryside.
Green Nation manages the site on behalf of investors, who since July 2015 include quoted fund John Laing Environmental Assets Group.
Green Nation monitors performance data from the site daily and organises corrective action where required, and manages subcontractors who provide maintenance services, 24 hour security monitoring through CCTV, insurance, landscaping and grass-cutting, as well as crucially collecting the revenue earned by the solar farm.