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Is your land suitable for a solar farm or battery storage?

If you're thinking about leasing your land for a solar farm or battery storage asset, Robert Barker, Head of Origination Development at Centrica Energy Assets, shares the criteria you should consider to see if your land is suitable.

Leasing your land for a solar farm or battery storage asset can help you to earn long-term, stable income – while playing a role in the UK’s journey to net zero.

But is your land suitable for a renewable power development? That could depend on factors such as the size of your land, its location or its legal status. Some points are critical, but others can be worked around. To find out more, just ask yourself the six questions below.

At Centrica Business Solutions, we’re here to help you, so if you have any further queries about the criteria for a solar or battery development, just contact us using the details at the bottom of the page.

Land suitability criteria: the questions to ask


1. Is your land near a 33kV grid connection?

If there’s one key to a successful renewable energy project, it’s whether a cost-effective connection from your land to the grid can be readily secured.

For either solar or battery storage, we’d need to access at least a 33kV (33,000-volt) grid connection – and there should also be spare capacity in that part of the grid (we can find out for you whether there is).

This is an important hurdle to cross, because in much of the UK, suitable grid capacity is getting harder to obtain. Be aware of the following tips:

  • If the grid connection is on your land, things become much easier.
    That’s because, if a connection is near your land but not on it, a third-party access agreement known as a “wayleave” would be required, which adds complexity and cost.
  • If there is a suitable grid connection, you may need to act quickly.
    A grid connection available today may no longer be viable six months from now – which would mean missing the opportunity for a solar farm on your land.
  • But just because electricity lines cross your land, don’t assume there is a suitable grid connection.
    It might be good news, but it might not: the line’s voltage could be too low, or there might not be enough capacity in the network.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in grid connections to make the most of the opportunity.

At Centrica Business Solutions, we can help you to identify suitable connections and investigate available options. We would also approach the distribution network operator (DNO) on your behalf, to confirm grid connection and capacity.

2. Does your land have the right legal status?

The legal or environmental status of your land can also have an effect on its suitability. Check out the following criteria:

  • Protected land.
    For a solar or battery storage development, your land should not usually be within a national park, nature reserve, area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) or site of special specific interest (SSSI) – though there may be exceptions in some cases. If there are protected species in a development area, we would put appropriate measures in place as part of the project.
  • Agricultural land classification.
    To comply with development rules, your land should not usually be higher-quality agricultural land preserved for farming (known as “best and most versatile” land in England and Wales, and “prime” agricultural land in Scotland). That said, in some areas there may be limited access to other land, so some local authorities may take a more flexible approach; we’re happy to work with authorities in these cases.
  • Flood zones.
    It's preferred that your land is outside of a flood zone. That said, it is possible to develop in flood zones 1 and 2 (where there is a low or medium probability of flooding), subject to a flood risk assessment and design mitigations as necessary.

3. Is the site large enough?

For the project to work, the available land will need to be of sufficient size. This is particularly important for a solar farm, where space requirements are larger.

  • For solar, the site should be at least 80 acres as a minimum. 
    The solar farm should be located on one, single site, not several pockets of land spread over a wide area. This is because spreading solar over a wide area leads to energy losses and higher maintenance costs – as well as reducing agricultural land use. 
  • For battery storage, the site can be much smaller.
    Two or three acres is sufficient for battery storage.

4. For solar, is the location sunny enough?

Of course, for solar power, land in the south of the UK – especially the south-east – is the best candidate, because of the sunnier weather conditions. Things get more challenging the further north you go.

The west of Scotland can be particularly difficult because of cloudier conditions (and especially isolated areas, of course, are also less likely to have a suitable grid connection nearby).

Where's the best place in the UK for solar generation?

When it comes to solar PV, some parts of the country have the potential to deliver better results than others. This map from The World Bank shows where you can expect to see the best results.

Locations in the south of the UK tend to be the best candidates; while cloudier conditions in the west of Scotland can make this a challenging location for solar PV.

© 2020 The World Bank, Source: Global Solar Atlas 2.0, Solar resource data: Solargis.

 

 

Map showing photovoltaic power potential across the UK

5. Is your land away from residential areas?

It’s preferred that the land is away from residential areas, for the following reasons:

  • Battery storage systems can cause noise.
    The air conditioning units required for battery storage can be noisy – so soundproofing measures will need to be included in the design if it is close to a residential location.
  • Not everyone may support solar.
    Solar farm development, rightly or wrongly, can be a divisive topic – because while most people will be supportive of the role that they play in tackling climate change, a minority may see them as damaging the landscape or reducing food production.

For this reason, it’s important to engage with, and discuss your plans with, the local community. A serious developer will support you in this, and will take on board local concerns.

When you’re considering a potential partner, ask them how they will handle this issue. Ultimately, it could affect how likely you are to get consent for the plans.

6. Is the terrain suitable?

Finally, there are some practical considerations when it comes to the features of your land. Here they are:

  • Flat land is preferred, especially for solar.
    For solar installations, the land should ideally be either flat or on a gentle south-facing slope. It will still work if your land has some slight undulations, but steep slopes and north-facing land is best avoided. For battery storage, land should ideally be relatively flat – but the asset will be built on a concrete base, so this can iron out a few undulations.
  • Tall trees are a challenge.
    For solar, it can be challenging if your site is surrounded by tall trees, especially on the southerly aspect of the site. It’s possible to work around this if there are trees on one boundary, but it’s preferred that the site is away from tall trees altogether.
  • A water connection can be a plus.
    The ability to connect to water is a “nice to have”, as it can help with maintenance. If mains water cannot be provided, it can be brought in via portable bowsers – but this is not as convenient.

Centrica Energy Assets

At Centrica Business Solutions, we can help you work out whether a renewable energy development on your land is likely to be successful. To find out more, please contact the Centrica Energy Assets team. We’d be happy to help.