The first subsidy-free solar farm opens in the UK

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Just outside Flitwick, a small English town in Bedfordshire, the U.K. has opened its first subsidy-free solar farm.

The Clayhill solar farm is a 45-acre facility that consists of over 31,000 ground-mounted solar panels and five battery storage units. Downing Street confirmed on Tuesday that the farm is the country’s first to be constructed and operated without the aid of government subsidy.

Clayhill is considered a victory by the clean energy industry which has struggled against the conservative government which came into power in 2015. A string of subsidy cuts and increased regulations has been met with criticism by industry spokesmen.

Earlier this year Jane Ellison of the Solar Trade Association told a national newspaper that the government was purposefully trying “to derail the solar industry after a success that has shaken up the entire UK energy sector for the benefit of the consumers.”

The 10-megawatt site was built by energy provider Anesco who called it “a landmark development” which will “pave the way for a sustainable future where subsidies are no longer needed or relied upon” The Clayhill facility will produce electricity for roughly 2,500 homes, saving 4,452 tons of carbon.

Climate Change Minister Claire Perry stated, “The cost of solar panels and batteries has fallen dramatically over the past few years, and this first subsidy-free development at Clayhill is a significant moment for clean energy in the U.K.”

Construction was spurned by the ever-decreasing cost of solar panels which have dropped in price by two-thirds since 2010. The National Grid released a statement on Tuesday stating that this summer was its “greenest ever“ as 52% of electricity generation was met by low carbon sources, compared to 35% only four years ago.

Construction expenses were also tempered by working closely with supply chain partners and utilizing existing infrastructure. Its location was specifically chosen to be near another solar project (which was built with the help of government subsidies) to help bring down costs.

“The Government is determined to build on this success and our ambitious Clean Growth Strategy will ensure we continue to the lead the world on the transition to a low-carbon economy” said Perry. She went on to say that the government is anticipating more subsidy-free sites to be installed before the end of the year.

Article written by HEI contributor Kevin Abbott.

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