NextEnergy Solar Fund has announced its intention to develop subsidy-free solar in the UK by acquiring nearly 60MW of development projects.

The investment fund has acquired a portfolio of four development projects which it said would, once completed, be financed without subsidies and by the sale of electricity either to the market or via power purchase agreements.

NESF said it would start construction of each individual asset once returns are sufficiently attractive, indicating that its investment advisor expected subsidy-free solar in the UK to be financially viable at some point over the next 12 – 24 months.

To achieve this, NextEnergy said it would be working with suppliers to drive both investment and operating costs down, while the company is to also work closely with the seller of the projects to extend project rights to “maximise the time frame” during which construction can start.

Solar developers in the UK, especially since the closure of the Renewables Obligation scheme, have been working to reduce the cost of deploying solar to edge closer towards so-called ‘grid parity’ status.

At Solar Media’s Managing European Solar Assets conference in April, a number of developers and asset owners concluded that subsidy-free solar would become attainable within the next 12-18 months and insisted that such developments were rapidly approaching feasibility.

Meanwhile, NESF has also concluded the purchase of three solar farms connected under the last 1.2 ROC hurdle and a separate 1.7MW community investment solar farm.

The 4.99MW Barnby, Bilsthorpe and Wickfield projects were all successfully connected to the grid prior to the 31 March 2017 deadline and are expected to be accredited at 1.2ROCs.

The 1.7MW Birch CIC project was connected in June 2015 and accredited under the feed-in tariff regime, and is in “immediate proximity” to the 5MW Birch Farm project which NESF acquired in October 2015.

NESF will maintain the CIC’s obligations of reinvesting a “significant” portion of profit generated by the plant into the local community, an obligation which the fund said was in line with its wider strategy.

The operational plants take NESF’s capacity to 483MW spread across 48 assets with a total investment value of £554 million. 

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