The 33,000-panel Codford facility will produce 19GWh of green electricity yearly, supporting the UK’s drive for energy security and the transition to Net Zero.
of clean electricity generated
of new flexible energy assets planned by Centrica by 2026
The UK has committed to decarbonising its electricity system by 2035 – with home-grown, green technologies key to supporting the transition away from fossil fuels and towards Net Zero.
With 10 million domestic and business customers, Centrica Energy Assets has a significant role to play in helping the UK achieve this. The company now manages 15GW of assets – twice the size of the UK’s nuclear fleet – with around 80% of them being clean power sources like wind and solar.
From battery storage to solar farms, decarbonising homes to hydrogen-ready backup generation, Centrica Business Solutions is dedicated to helping the UK build a cleaner, greener future. To help deliver on its commitments, Centrica Energy Assets has ambitious plans to create 1GW of new flexible energy assets.
One of the first projects en route to hitting this target took the company to a 72-acre site in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge.
Construction of the Codford Solar Farm, the first that Centrica Energy Assets has developed and operated in the UK, began in April 2022, with power generation coming on stream in June 2023.
“Centrica is a uniquely integrated energy company, well positioned to both drive, and benefit from, the energy transition,” explains Chris O’Shea, CEO at Centrica. “I’m delighted that we’re now back building assets, focusing on clean electricity generation and storage.” Adds Bill Rees, Director of Centrica Energy Assets:
Centrica is investing heavily to play a significant role in the transition to Net Zero. To decarbonise our electricity grid we need a combination of sustainable technologies and solar is a vital component of that mix.
Bill Rees, Director of Centrica Energy Assets
Bill continues: "Codford Solar Farm is an important first step in our plan to build a portfolio of 1GW of renewable assets to help meet the UK Government’s target.”
Under a long-term Power Purchase Agreement, Vodafone will buy half of the electricity output from the Codford facility, with the remainder sold into the National Grid through Centrica’s Energy Marketing and Trading business.
Vodafone is a valued partner and our agreement to sell half of the electricity generated at Codford is a great deal for Centrica as it allowed us to make this investment, secure in the knowledge that we had a buyer in place. And it’s a great deal for Vodafone too, supporting its mission to decarbonise its business.”
Chris O’Shea, CEO at Centrica
Alongside the design, engineering and construction of the solar farm, detailed consideration was also given to how the biodiversity of the 72-acre greenfield site could be improved. The landowner, Josh Stratton, Centrica Energy Assets and local ecologists worked together to select a mix of indigenous tussock grasses and wildflowers, low growing so as not to shade the photovoltaic panels. Their work included the restoration of an existing pond, home to the great crested newt.
“The output from this in terms of butterflies, nesting birds, small mammals, invertebrates and the whole food chain has been incredible,” explains Josh. “Apart from the solar panels themselves, this is probably the thing we can be most proud of.”
Josh Stratton is the third generation of his family to run the JM Stratton estate in Wiltshire, and his business is a classic example of success built on innovation and diversification. Josh and his team still devote the majority of their land to wheat, barley, oats and growing other arable crops, as well as for the rearing of cattle and sheep. But increasingly it is environmental projects, and in particular solar power generation that is fuelling growth.
For our family, sustainability, Net Zero and respect for the environment run through every single element of our business. We see solar as an important element of that, for the country as a whole, providing a really good source of renewable energy."
Josh Stratton, Managing Partner
Josh continues: “We’ve been working on bringing solar to the farm for about 10 years. It’s a slow process and you have to commit to it for the long term. There are actually very few places in the UK where solar farms can be built as there is unique landscape criteria. The field that Centrica Energy Assets is using on the edge of Salisbury Plain is almost invisible to local people. We’re also very close to a grid connection.
“Working with Centrica has been interesting and a steep learning curve. We’re a very small business and they are very large, but they have great people who are passionate about this and so the working relationship has been smooth. All in all, we’ve had a five-year journey, which is really quite normal for these sorts of projects. But it’s very fulfilling because the build is complete, it’s producing electricity and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.”
“This is a fantastic partnership between Centrica and the landowner,” says Bill. “At a time when there is so much uncertainty in farming, this provides a great source of long-term income for farmers, helping them to operate more sustainably from both an environmental and financial standpoint.
“To bring this project to completion is a very proud moment for all of us, but this is just the first in a pipeline of important projects to come, including batteries to provide large-scale storage capacity to release to the grid when the sun isn’t shining,” he adds.
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