The Energy Blog Ground-mounted solar farms to be piloted

Jersey Electricity invites expressions of interest for ground-mounted solar pilots

Jersey could soon be powering homes and businesses from the electricity grid with locally generated ground-mounted solar power from small ‘solar farms’. Jersey Electricity (JE), which currently imports around 95% of the Island’s electricity requirements from certified low carbon nuclear and renewable hydro-electric sources in France, proposes to give farmers, developers, the States, Parishes or any other landowner the opportunity to acquire a stake in a new renewables energy sector in Jersey that will benefit all Islanders.

JE is initially inviting expressions of interest from groups or individuals to participate in one or more pilot projects to generate power from ground-based solar arrays and sell it to Jersey Electricity with the security of a long-term purchase contract under which JE would guarantee to buy all the units generated at an agreed unit price for up to 20 years.  Bidders will need to specify the minimum unit price they seek from JE and can deliver the power in suitably sized packages, typically for example, from 250 kilowatt to 1-2 megawatt arrays that deliver good economies of scale. All proposed sites will be subject to planning permission and have to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

JE CEO Chris Ambler said: ‘We are aware of an increasing appetite for locally generated renewables and wish to play an active role in facilitating this. This is now a real opportunity for local landowners or developers to become electricity generators in pilot schemes with the advantage of securing a long-term contract against which they can raise funds. 

‘We have been exploring how we can economically deploy solar photovoltaic (PV) technology since we installed our own array on the Powerhouse roof in 2013. As ground-based solar PV generation has become more cost-effective, we believe it is the best local renewable option by some margin as it is close to grid parity – that is, competitive with imported electricity. A long-term purchase contract with JE will ensure all our customers benefit from on-Island renewable energy at the best possible price – something we think our customers would expect us to seek out.  We are also open to more innovative ways to support such pilot schemes by, for example, 
co-investing with partners.

‘More locally generated renewables also sits comfortably with our existing decarbonised electricity from France, a third of which is already from certified renewable hydro-electric sources. We also wish to enable Jersey to progress the Energy Plan - Pathway 2050 - which states a preference for ‘moving towards renewable sources of energy where it can be justified on grounds of economics, security and sustainability’.

‘Although local solar PV will not in itself help Jersey to further decarbonise the electricity system, these pilot developments will introduce some local diversity of supply. We expect them to be undertaken by consortia of local landowners, businesses and specialists. Subject to levels of interest, we may introduce a tender process. All proposals and installations will, as a matter of course, be subject to obtaining planning permission. Jersey Electricity will also assess grid connectivity arrangements depending on location.’

As well as spreading access to local renewables across the whole community, ground-based solar schemes like this represent time-limited, reversible land use.  They provide higher, stable and diversified source of income for landowners. They may also allow dual purpose usage with animals grazing between panel rows and they can also support biodiversity with bird and insect-supporting plants and wildflowers sown around modules.