Britain's first floating solar panel project installed

Britain’s first ever floating solar panel project has been built in Berkshire, in a scheme its developer says will act as a blueprint for the technology to be installed at hundreds of sites across the country.

The 800-panel green energy project was installed earlier this month on a reservoir at Sheeplands Farm, a 300-acre soft fruit farm near Wargrave. The scheme is eligible for Feed-In-Tariffs.

Its owner, Mark Bennett, says that floating panels are even more lucrative than solar farms on fields because no earnings from valuable agricultural land have to be sacrificed to make space for them.

Mr Bennett has signed a deal with French firm Ciel et Terre, which developed the floating technology, to distribute it in the UK through his newly-formed company Floating Solar UK.

The technology, which is already being used at far larger scale in Japan, involves solar panels mounted on plastic floats, forming a giant pontoon. Mr Bennett said he has already had strong interest in the technology for use elsewhere, including from major water companies. He said he thought the development was more aesthetically pleasing than panels on fields. However, his target market was "functional reservoirs" used for drinking water or irrigation, rather than scenic lakes.

"We are speaking to big utility companies, to agricultural companies - anyone with an unused body of water. The potential is remarkable," he said.

The Sheeplands Farm development was installed at a cost of £250,000. Mr Bennett said he expected to earn £20,500 a year in consumer-funded subsidies for the power it produces over the next 20 years, while he will also save about £24,000 a year by no longer having to buy the power from the Grid.

The project could therefore pay for itself within 6 years and should deliver a "minimum profit" of more than £620,000 over 20 years.

This article, including the image, has been adapted from an article published in The Telegraph.