Standing in a large field wearing steel toe-capped boots in a chilly September wind isn’t our usual idea of Chesterton House-style hospitality, but it’s what we and around 30 clients and friends were doing this week. So what was it that had captured our interest?
We were guests of Foresight Investment group, owners of one of the UK’s largest solar energy farms, which happens to be located just a few minutes drive from our offices near the village of Wymeswold.
In fact it wasn’t until towards the end of the visit when the site manager invited our party to climb the small hill that overlooks the former airfield site of the farm that we fully appreciated the scale of this silent power station. Despite being home to an amazing 140,000 solar panels over a 190 acre area, the development is unobtrusive from the adjacent roads and I suspect that few local residents appreciate its scale either.
We had earlier been welcomed to the site by Nick Morgan of Foresight, and he had explained the investment merits of this form of energy production, with its stable and highly predictable revenue stream. Richard Urwin, Investment Director at Chesterton House, told the assembled group about the benefits arising from an index-linked income stream and why this farm had been included in our clients’ investment portfolios.
Site manager Arnoud Klaren then went on to share details of the site, how it was constructed, and how it harvests energy from the sun to generate a constant stream of electricity for the National Grid. With a potential output of 34 MW of electricity, the site produces enough energy to power the equivalent of 10,000 homes.
Except, of course, when there is no sun, which remained conspicuous by its absence. The grey skies got greyer, the wind got colder, and the boots got less comfortable as we stood and listened. We were pleased to hear that the panels still generate power even under the very darkest of daylight skies, but we were denied the opportunity to hear the inverter – a large caravan size metal box that turns the solar direct current into the alternating variety required by the grid – really sizzle, as Arnoud assured us it does when the sun shines bright.
It was obvious that the unseasonal chill hadn’t dimmed everyone’s enjoyment of the event, however. Arnoud fielded a wide range of questions with clear and enthusiastic answers, and we all learned a great deal about both the practicalities and problems of modern ‘clean’ energy generation as well as the financial implications involved.
As the world focuses on reducing its carbon emissions this promises to be one area that is ripe for continuing innovation. An obvious problem with solar-generated energy is what happens at night, and Arnoud described some of the ideas that are being developed to be able to create a stable energy stream, from the use of batteries to store surplus power, to using lakes that use surplus power to raise water in daytime allowing it to fall and generate hydroelectric power as required overnight. As the number of alternative energy generators increases, with consequent falls in installation costs, it becomes more economic to investigate these ideas and create workable solutions. Watch this space!
As the cool breeze continued we were pleased to retire to the Windmill Inn in Wymeswold which provided us with an excellent buffet lunch in their welcoming warm surroundings. The comments we received then and since confirmed that everyone had found this an enjoyable and very informative way to spend a morning.
We’re grateful to Foresight for this opportunity, which we may repeat in the spring. If you’re a client of Chesterton House, or you’re interested in the possibilities of using solar power in your portfolio, and you’d like to come along next time please drop Jenny a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get in touch when we’ve fixed something up.
And let’s hope that next time the sun comes out. I would love to hear that inverter sizzle!