Work has started to build the UK’s largest Solar Farm, thanks to the collaboration between two agricultural land specialists, law firm Thrings and rural and development land agent WebbPaton.
The 230 acre solar farm, located in Didcot, will be the largest in the UK and will provide 41MW of power, which could supply 10,000 homes. It will be completed by April 2014.
Acting on behalf of the landowner, Thrings and WebbPaton negotiated the lease of the land to developers INRG Solar.
Leasing land for solar projects has become a popular investment for agricultural land owners, because of the level of return on offer. Thrings and WebbPaton have worked together on a number of large solar farm projects across Wiltshire and Oxfordshire over the last three years, including a 130 acre project in Castle Eaton and a 110 acre site in Calne.
Catherine Strickland, associate at Thrings, said: “Wiltshire and Oxfordshire are prime areas for solar projects due to sunlight in the south of the country and access to the National Grid to feed in the energy produced.
“The use of agricultural land for solar power is growing as traditionally they are built on brownfield sites. However, whether the site is brownfield or not, Thrings’s focus is to ensure landowners are protected and all the negotiated details are reflected in the agreed terms.
“The combination of our renewable and agricultural expertise gives us unrivalled insight into the priorities of landowners during these deals and for the future of their estate.”
It is their joint focus on the benefit of renewable energy combined with ensuring that conservation is at the top of the project agenda that sets the teams above the rest.
George Paton, partner at WebbPaton, commented: “ Renewables are a wonderful diversification for landowners looking to increase the value of their asset and achieve a higher return per acre.
“It is a relatively new sector in rural property transactions however we have already completed deals covering over 2,000 acres, many of these with Thrings, and we expect to see interest to continue.
“We feel it is very important to consider the long term management and conservation of any site when negotiating the deals and so we ensure that the site is designed so it is not prominent on the landscape and that bonds are written into the contracts to ensure the site is returned to its original use at the end of the lease.”
The Didcot solar farm will continue to be managed as a natural pasture land grazed by sheep to encourage diversity of flora and fauna.
George continued: “We have worked with a number of solicitors on renewable projects but we recommend Thrings due to their sheer knowledge, conscientiousness, communication and overall expertise. Thanks to the number of projects we have worked on together we have developed a deep understanding of the things that are likely to happen in negotiations, things that funders require and obtaining the best outcome for the landowner. In our opinion, Catherine is one of the best solar lawyers in the country.”