How to benefit from a large-scale renewable energy scheme

Now has never been a better time to seek ground rent from energy schemes, with some solar plus storage leases worth over £10m in lifetime ground rent. But to achieve a scheme, and then get the best rents and lease terms, landowners must be proactive, and act quickly and independently of any developer, writes Hugh Taylor of independent power and energy consultancy Roadnight Taylor.

Subsidy-free solar has become a viable option following a fall in solar technology costs and a rise in energy prices. Solar farm developers are looking keenly for sites of around 40 to 200 acres. The battery storage and wind markets are also picking back up, and gas gensets have been a strong option through the subsidy-free era. All technologies bring income opportunities for landowners with the right sites.

Renewable energy ground rents

Achievable ground rents will vary depending on many factors, including grid connection costs, planning prospects and how the site is marketed.

Depending on the site, landowners can receive ground rents of over £800 per acre for solar sites upwards of 40 acres and for leases of 30 to 50 years. Gas gensets can return up to £150,000 per year and battery storage over £50,000 per year – both on under two acres.

But, to achieve a scheme and these rents, landowners must be quick – but be cautious of developers.

Had a letter from a developer? Don’t sign anything

We often get called by landowners who have had letters from developers suggesting there may be grid capacity and an opportunity for a lucrative energy scheme on their land. The developer asks the landowner to sign a letter of authority for the developer to investigate this further, on the landowner’s behalf, with their local Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

For many reasons, you shouldn’t allow the developer to apply for a grid connection:

  • Up to 80% of grid application from developers fail. We know this through our close work with DNOs. The level of technical, commercial and regulatory grid expertise needed to unlock a site’s potential is greater than ever before – and developers’ teams lack the skills to consistently achieve that. To reliably access available grid capacity, you need to know who to ask, what to ask, how to interpret their answers – and, importantly, when to challenge them.
  • To be in a powerful position to command and negotiate the best terms, landowners must apply for and secure grid rights independently. Only then can they safely invite competing bids from amongst the most suitable developers for their site.
  • By keeping control of your grid rights, instead of signing them away from the outset, you also mitigate against the risk of the developer either going cold on the site – for example owing to planning issues – or of them going out of business.

Grid capacity is limited but changing

Any energy scheme needs grid rights in order to connect to the electricity network. There must be enough space (grid capacity) on the local network to export sufficient power – and a battery storage scheme also needs import capacity.

Pockets of grid capacity are available in most regions of the UK – but across the island headroom fluctuates over time. Failed projects release capacity and the DNOs are reinforcing and reconfiguring their networks – and monitoring power flows in real time to enable more generation and storage to connect.

But any spare capacity will get used up. DNOs issue grid capacity on a first-come, first-served basis, so landowners must move fast to be at the front of the grid queue. Any grid capacity remaining locally will only be enough for one scheme. If a landowner doesn’t secure that capacity for their site quickly, a neighbour will instead.

Find out if you have genuine power scheme potential

So, it’s now more vital than ever to get independent expert advice so that the right grid application is submitted for the right technology and scale – and genuinely on the landowner’s behalf (not a developer’s). This maximises the landowner’s chances of success and ensures the best offers and terms are achieved.

For landowners who want to find out whether they have a realistic opportunity for power scheme sites on their land, Roadnight Taylor offers its desktop Stop/GoTM feasibility study from £495+VAT.

If the site has genuine potential for a scheme, Roadnight Taylor can submit a grid application, on the landowner’s behalf, for the right technology and scale – and can do so on a no-win-no-fee basis. If Roadnight Taylor secure the landowner a viable offer, they can then attract the strongest rent and terms for the site by attracting competing offers from the best-performing developers.