Santander starts construction of 32MW solar farm

The building of Broxted Solar Farm, which covers a 150-acre site in Suffolk, is the second major investment in UK solar by Spain’s largest bank.

Santander UK, the London-listed subsidiary of Banco Santander, has started building one of the UK’s largest renewable power plants.

Based on a Second World War airfield in south-west Suffolk, Broxted Solar Farm will have a planned capacity of 31.6 megawatts (MW). It is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, and will occupy 150 acres of the 500 acres that make up Broxted Estate.

The farm will also generate 30,200 megawatt hours (MWh) per year of clean renewable energy. This will avoid the emission of around 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 94,000 tons of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere, Santander said in a statement.

The construction follows Santander’s acquisition of Broxted Solar Company from Lark Energy, a UK-based solar developer. It also involves Isolux Corsan, the construction contractor, as well as landowner Navigator Land and grid operator UK Power Networks. Navigator Land has other plans to regenerate the rest of the estate, including setting up sheep and cattle grazing areas, 130 acres of arable farming, and 60 acres of woodland.

The solar sector has proven an attractive sub-sector for renewable energy fund managers looking to invest in the UK, following the country’s decision to achieve 20 gigawatts in generation capacity by 2020. The Broxted project is 1.4MW shy of the 33MW farm built last May by Germany’s SAG Solarstrom in Wymeswold, central England.

Broxted is the second large solar investment by Santander, which has recently stepped up its involvement in early-stage renewable energy projects in the UK. The Spanish lender teamed up with British renewable energy firm Blue Water Energy last June to finance the building of Middlewick wind farm, which will have a capacity of 20.7 MW.

This was not the first time Santander partnered with Blue Energy to co-invest in the wind sector, having backed the Hall Farm and Wandylaw wind farms, with a respective capacity of 24.6MW and 20.5MW, earlier this year.