Interest in the solar park in Bullionfield is increasing as we approach the construction phase over the next few months. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.
What size of solar array is being installed?
The size of the solar array will be two megawatts. This is roughly enough to power 200 homes. The area required for the solar array is 4.5 hectares.
Will there be battery storage installed to improve the system?
No batteries will be installed as part of the initial installation.
The system was designed to maximise on-site consumption of the electricity by The James Hutton Institute and to minimise the export of electricity to the grid. The characteristics of the solar array and how this matches The Institute’s consumption mean there is little need to store energy generated during the day and use it at night.
While batteries are not required as part of this project, there may be scope for installing batteries at some future date should the energy requirements of The Institute change.
Will the system be installed by a local contractor?
After a full procurement process, Munro Wilson have been appointed as main contractors for the project. While not locally-based, Munro Wilson planned to use some local sub-contractors which was a factor in their appointment by the DRES board. There will be a contract for DRES to deliver energy to the James Hutton Institute.
What happens if there is a problem with the solar array?
Responsibility for maintaining the solar array sits with DRES, who will sub-contract this out to industry suppliers.
If the solar array is not producing electricity, The Institute does not receive the electricity and they will not pay for it.
Since The Institute will still draw power from the National Grid, failure of the solar meadow to supply electricity will not result in power issues.
It is clearly in DRES’s interests to keep the solar array in good condition to maximise the income generated by the project.
What happens at end of life or if there is a major issue?
At this stage we are unable to answer this level of detail. The reason being that negotiations over the agreement have not yet covered all aspects of termination such as the question raises.
We will however have agreements in place to cover these situations before the solar meadow is built.
The final termination clauses will provide that one or the other of the parties (DRES or The Institute) will be responsible for removing the equipment and clearing the site.
The equipment is expected to last for 20 years at least. The construction will be relatively sturdy, yet not so permanent that it becomes difficult to remove and restore to an agricultural field.
We are using a 20-to-25-year lifespan for the project, because this matches the length of time required for financial viability. However, it is entirely possible the useable life of the solar array could be double this.
How much money are you needing to come up with, and what will be minimum investment be for someone contemplating investing?
We have not yet determined these details in the share offer. Approximate numbers are that we expect the solar array to cost approximately £2 million.
For the share offer: we will likely have a minimum investment of £100-£200 and a maximum of £10,000 to £20,000.
Who can buy shares? Do shareholders need to be resident? Can employees at The James Hutton buy shares?
While shareholders do not need to be locally resident, it is important to DRES and Energy4All that local people invest in the project. Local residents and employees at The James Hutton Institute will be strongly encouraged to invest
However, one of the benefits that working with Energy4All brings is that they have a ready pool of investors from all over the UK who are used to investing in similar projects. These investors can step forward in the event that not enough funds can be raised locally.
Is there a target date for when the money will need to be raised?
We hope to open the share offer in late 2023. Typically, such share offers run for two to three months.
How much community benefit will come specifically to Invergowrie?
We do not know the answer. A policy for community benefit payments has been developed, but it only talks in general terms about the types of projects to be funded, and that the projects must be in the “local area”, which includes Invergowrie and Dundee.
Experience from other Energy Co-ops is that the members of the Co-op are the ones who decide how the community benefits should be paid, so we would encourage Invergowrie locals to become involved in DRES.
What is the price paid for electricity and if it will rise with inflation?
The James Hutton Institute is still in discussions with DRES, so we can’t comment in detail but we expect to be able to offer a competitive rate.
Power provided by the solar meadow comes with the added benefit that it is provided at a fixed known price rather than subject to market fluctuation.
Electricity prices are subject to inflationary pressures and so the price will be indexed to inflation.
Can we expand the size of the solar array, such as if demand increases in the future?
There is space for a bigger array on site, so yes it would be possible to expand. The current array however is sized to ensure most of the electricity is used on site, so expanding the size of the array would require a significant change in the patterns of energy use of The Institute, the addition of battery storage, or a change in the export tariff such projects receive.
We should note that the current project occupies the front half of the field where the amenity is not as nice, and preserves trees at the back where it is a more pleasant setting and is nicer for walking in for example
Are there any issues with proximity to the Airport?
We sent the plans to Highland and Islands Airports prior to submitting the planning applications to Dundee City Council. We did not hear back from them. This is entirely normal as they never respond to such requests unless there is a live planning application with the local Council.
We have done what we can to minimise concerns the airport operator may have.
Why is the “minimum community benefit £10,000 annually, but the total expected return over £700,000, considerably more than £10,000 annually over 20 years?
£10,000 is the minimum we expect to return. The early years of this project are expected to have higher costs that later years, meaning that the annual community benefit available can increase as time goes on.
Have the environmental costs of production, cutting down trees, installation and decommissioning been calculated? If so at what level of production does this break even?
We have investigated this, however due to the massive number of variables involved this is a remarkably difficult number to calculate with any level of accuracy.
Our investigations however indicate that the environmental benefits of this project massively outweigh the costs.
Since this is such a complicated and interesting topic, we hope to expand on this in future blog posts.
Should you have your own questions regarding the project, please contact us and we'll do our best to answer your query.