Published: 12:00, 24 October 2021
| Updated: 07:48, 25 October 2021
The UK’s biggest solar farm - primed to be built across 900 acres of countryside between Faversham and Whitstable - has been acquired by new operators who are planning to start construction next year.
Previously known as Cleve Hill, the mammoth site in Graveney has been renamed as part of the takeover by London-based group Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners.
It now goes by the name of Project Fortress, with previous owners Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy leaving the controversial project they gained permission for.
Under their management, work was primed to start at some stage this year, however, it never materialised.
Now, Quinbrook, which manages assets worth more than £1.5 billion, has taken on the scheme and plans to begin construction in the first half of next year.
The solar farm, made up of 880,000 panels, is hoped to become operational in 2023 and have more than three times the generating capacity of the country’s current largest solar site.
Project Fortress, which will be powered by a lithium battery storage plant the size of 20 football pitches, was given planning permission by the government last spring in the face of strong opposition.
Swale Borough Council, which previously considered launching a costly judicial review against the decision, says it hopes to hold talks with the new owners.
A spokesman said: “As the planning authority, we have no view on the ownership of any development, but we will get in touch with the new owners to establish contact arrangements and understand their programme.
“When the scheme was approved by the secretary of state, several requirements were placed on the permission for the developer to undertake before the scheme can start on site. These have been ongoing and more submissions are required.
“We have liaison arrangements in place with the local parish council and we will consult with the key agencies and regulators who may be involved in assessing the submissions made before accepting clearance of a requirement.”
Quinbrook already has two huge solar farm projects in Nevada, in the United States, and prides itself on being an investment group solely involved in renewable energy schemes.
It is to act as owner-operator of the £450 million Graveneny site and plans to sell energy-supply contracts for the project over the coming months.
Company co-founder Rory Quinlan said: “We believe Project Fortress is a landmark transaction on many fronts and represents a new frontier in UK solar teamed with large scale battery storage.
“We have been immersed in large-scale solar and storage in the US for many years and we can apply our significant experience in project design and equipment selection to ensure Fortress becomes the new benchmark for renewables that support the UK grid rather than challenge it.”
“We think this is destined to become the standard for all energy supply projects in the years ahead.”
Deemed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the solar farm is set to power 100,000 homes and reduce carbon emissions by 164,450 tonnes in its first year of operation.