Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Solar farm development costs so far

So… for those who missed earlier blogs, My new company (positech energy) is trying to build a 1.2mwp solar farm in the UK. I thought it might be worth reminding myself how much has been done, and how much further we have to go. Currently, we are awaiting a planning decision, which has been delayed twice already, but should now happen in less than a month. I suspect this date may actually be final this time…

Here is what has cost me money so far:

Feasibility Study£5,000
Planning Application submission fee£9,730
Topographical survey (is the land flat etc…)£1,150
Solar farm scheme design (inverters/panels/substation reqs etc)£3,465
Habitat survey (are there any endangered bats on the site?)£914
Archaeological Survey (are there any buried roman settlements on the site?)£990
Visual Impact Assessment (will anybody see it, and how badly will this affect them?)£1,485
Flood Risk Assessment (will the site flood? will building it make anywhere else flood?)£495
Construction Management Plan (tell people what building works will happen)£495
Planning Statement (honestly…not sure of this one…)£247.50
Transport Statement (how many trucks, what size, when, where, what route…)£247.50
Statement of Community Involvement£495
Consultant Co-ordination (so I dont have to speak to all these people myself)£495
Planning form (actually entering all of this stuff into planning system)£495
Sundry Expenses (site visit mileage)£250
Historic Impact Assessment (Will building this impact the local history, or views of anything historically interesting)£3,285
DNO (Distribution Network Operator) submission for a grid quote for electrical connection£3,600
Project fee for buying the existing project from previous developer (long story)£5,000
50% of landowners legal fees£464.50

Amazingly, I have already paid all of this, and yet do not have planning permission yet. In theory, I could be denied planning permission completely with no way to recover, and that would mean all of this money was wasted. Scary hug? But wait…there is more:

10% deposit on over 3,000 solar panels£44,524.80
First payment towards electrical grid connection£50,000

Yikes. Those are the big ones. And scary too, because the panels will show up in the UK soon(ish). If you think I can store them in my garage until we get a new site, think again. Its 70 tons of solar panels. In theory, if it all goes wrong, we can cancel and only lose 5%, but more likely, we can re-sell them to someone else, or even have the farm construction company buy them from us. We also have another site currently being evaluated, so we could use them there.

The grid connection deposit can mostly be refunded if we cancel, depending how much work they have done so far, but given the stupidly long timescales they quote, I doubt they have done much yet. Its precisely BECAUSE the grid connection timeline and solar panel ordering timelines are SO long, that I took the risk to order both before getting planning permission.

So what other costs are coming up?

Landowner fee on signing (one-off bonus)£10,000
Legal Fees on signing£1,000
The rest of the solar panel cost~£400,000
The site construction cost~£200,000
The solar battery cost~£240,000
The rest of the grid connection costs£101,007.17

You got to love that grid connection cost right? Especially the way they do it down to the penny to support the fiction that its super competitive, when in fact your choices is of accepting the quote…or not accepting it and not being able to build a farm… In theory its highly regulated cost wise, and in theory you can do some of the work ‘the contestable work’ yourself using a 3rd party, but in practice the amount of the work that is contestable is a pittance, so it just introduces confusion and complexity for almost no gain…

There is really nothing more I can do until we finally get a decision from the planners, which I REALLY hope is ‘granted’, but would not be flabbergasted to discover there are conditions or other requirements. Honestly you would think I was bulldozing st pauls cathedral and making solar panels out of the corpses of rare badgers I crushed under a steam roller, given the way these things get treated in planning terms… Needless to say I have a LOT of VERY strong opinions on how fundamentally broken our planning system is (and it gest seemingly worse over time, not better).

I’ll state it again here: The biggest enemy of the UK meeting its net zero goals is not UKIP, or the daily mail, or the conservative party, or apathy, or cost, or technology.

Its bureaucracy.

For starters, the timescales need halving, AT LEAST. Secondly, we really need to collapse a lot of this paperwork into one. There is no need for separate planning, transport, construction and community engagement documents for crying out loud. Also we need a lot of clauses to allow smaller developments to bypass some of this crap. If your total site area is small, you shouldn’t need to do the full archaeology/habitat/flood/historical nonsense. By all means, if you are covering 100 acres with solar panels, then lets make sure all bases are covered, but for a relatively tiny site? This is ridiculous.

I actually anticipate fairly smooth sailing if we get planning. My plan is ON THE VERY SAME FUCKING DAY that we get planning approval, I want to order the battery, the mounting kits, the inverters, EVERYTHING, so that we are 100% ready to hit the ground digging ground screws in as soon as possible.

This is why I took the risk of grid & panel ordering early. Its also why I’m about to sign a lease with the farmer, and start paying rent (likely next month). I don’t want anything to stop us building the farm once we have permission. In an ideal world, the panels would get unloaded from the ship the day planning is granted. In practice, things are bound to go wrong.

I am nervous about, and very focused upon…getting planning permission for this thing. Its DEFINTELY the most risky and bureaucratic and infuriating thing I have attempted so far. Expect lots of drunken tweeting from me on the day we get it (if we do…).

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