Chinese company invests in Cornwall's solar power
Two solar parks in Cornwall are to be developed by a Chinese manufacturing company in its first foray in the UK renewable energy market, it has emerged.
China Sunergy, which manufacturers solar panels, has bought two sites – one near Truro and the other near Falmouth which already have planning permission – as part of its plans to expand in the UK.
The sites at Higher Tregarn at Mawnan Smith, and Tregavethan, near Truro, will be built and be in operation before April 1 next year, when levels of Government subsidy fall.
The company's Westcountry venture was welcomed in the region. Merlin Hyman, chief executive of green energy specialists Regen SW, said the industry was an "international business" and that overseas interest in the UK market could continue to grow.
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"We are trying to use our own natural resources to generate our own energy locally," Mr Hyman said, "and we need to be open to national and international opportunities.
"But we also ought to leave no stone unturned in pressing to get the maximum economic benefit out of it and to do that we need to be upping our skills and encouraging inward investment in manufacturing and installation."
A boom in solar farms has seen dozens of large scale schemes granted planning permission across Devon and Cornwall in the last two years.
However, Mr Hyman said he expected interest in solar to cool when the value of subsidies, known as renewables obligation certificates (ROCs), drops by a quarter after next April.
The two sites purchased by China Sunergy have a combined capacity of 10MW – enough to power an estimated 2,000 homes.
The deal was confirmed by country manager Yolanda Qin at the trade show Solar Power UK 2012.
It will own and operate the two plants, utilising its own products, with construction expected to begin in the coming weeks. It needs to be connected to the grid by April 1, 2013, to qualify for the higher value subsidies.
Stephen Cai, chief executive officer of China Sunergy, explained: "We will continue our downstream strategy, which is to increase the investment into solar projects globally.
"These two solar parks in the UK are just starting points for us and we look to expand across Europe, including France, Germany, Romania, and Spain, etc, where we can achieve a healthy return rate on our projects."