Is solar for you? 8 key considerations for solar energy developments

As concerns over energy prices and security of supply escalate, many organisations and individuals are exploring renewables as a solution. Here, we share eight key points to consider when embarking on a solar project.

Jon Edinborough, Associate Director - Utility Infrastructure
Geoff Dewick, Aviation Director

As well as meeting Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) obligations, there are significant opportunities to reduce costs, provide security, generate income and enhance reputation. For those with suitable available land or buildings, solar development is an attractive option. But to ensure it’s the right option it’s important that careful consideration is given before investing time and money. So, what do you need to consider?

Solar farm in field

1. What are you looking to achieve?

Perhaps your objectives are focused on reducing carbon and achieving sustainability targets. For others, solar might also be a way of generating revenue from unused or under-utilised land. Whatever your goals, it’s vital to give them adequate thought and share them with your advisers. This will allow them to assess – taking into consideration the real estate available - if solar is the right option to achieve these goals.

2. What are your generation capabilities based on your available space?

It’s important to think about the land and roof space you have available and whether it’s likely to be suitable for a solar project. Location, environmental and utility constraints, and building structure all need to be reviewed when deciding if a solar project is feasible.

3. What’s your route to market?

To understand the appropriate procurement procedures, you'll need to consider several factors:

  • if you have a connection to the grid or a ‘private wire’ connection
  • if your capital plan requires funding support from financial institutions for the development, or if you need support from landowners to secure land
  • when procuring a design/construction partner, you need to undertake sufficient due diligence to ensure they have the relevant experience and expertise to make the project a success

4. What are the associated costs?

When deciding if solar is the right option, you’ll need to consider if it’s also viable from an economic perspective. You’ll need to gain an understanding of the design, build, grid connection, operations and maintenance costs. Most solar projects have a lifespan of around 25 years and regular maintenance will be required, so it’s critical to build this cost in at the outset.

Comparing initial capital expenditure costs and the 25-year maintenance costs against the forecasted revenue based on your available real state will give you a good indication of the viability of the development. You'll also need to take your overall project goals into account too.

5. Is it technically feasible?

As well as being economically viable, ask yourself: is the project is technically feasible? This depends significantly on the real estate available and any constraints there may be. For example, the position and location of land and buildings may mean that the technology won’t be capable of generating the energy required to meet your goals. It may also present difficulties in connecting to the grid. Ensuring sufficient due diligence is undertaken is key to the success of any renewables project.

6. What are the specific design requirements?

In order to maximise available space, you will need to establish the most effective way to design the project. For roof mounted solar, some buildings may need adaptations to enable solar panels to be added. The design will also need to consider the position of the buildings to help maximise energy generation.

7. What consents are required?

At the start of the project, it’s vital to understand what planning consents will be required. Depending on the scale of energy generation being proposed, solar development projects are subject to either the 1990 Town & Country Planning Act or the 2008 Planning Act Development Consent Order (DCO) route to consent. A DCO is required where the energy generation is >50Mw, comprising a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. These consents follow different processes, but both require environmental information to be submitted when making an application. Typically, pre-application work, including consultation and engagement with stakeholders, will be undertaken along with detailed surveys and reports to assess whether the project is likely to be granted.

8. How will you monitor, evaluate and maximise solar performance?

Once the project is in operation, you’ll need to monitor and evaluate the performance to ensure it meets the goals set from the outset, along with any ongoing requirements set out in the planning conditions. You may also need to provide updates to investors and key stakeholders who will want to be assured the project is delivering sufficient return on any investments.

Our solar experts

Our planning, environmental, utilities and deal advisory teams will work closely with you to provide the support and advice you need to ensure your project achieves its full potential. We’ll support you in:

  • Assessing feasibility
  • Providing strategic advice
  • Securing investment
  • Carrying out relevant site and environmental assessments
  • Acquiring necessary planning and consents

Our technical delivery teams will advise on maximising the power output, connection option appraisal, sustainable building design for roof mounted facilities including retrofitting existing buildings, space planning within proposed developments, and consider your operational constraints.

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