Driving down the cost of energy is largely achieved by going big. Large scale wind and solar are now the UK’s lowest cost forms of electricity generation. But how do we go about even starting to build and operate these extensive renewable energy projects?
Identifying a site
The process typically starts with wind or solar farm developers identifying a suitable site. This would be somewhere that is unconstrained by environmental features, has good wind/solar resource, and landowners willing for their land to be used to generate cheap, clean energy.
Surveys and planning
Once a site has been located, the project developers will then carry out various surveys to determine any constraints onsite to help determine the layout of the project.
The developers will then consult with the appropriate statutory organisations and local authority before submitting a planning application. Depending on the complexity of the project, the planning decision can take between 1-5 years! It can then take at least another year before construction can start, depending on the availability on the grid. The very start of the site identification process to power generation can take anywhere between 5 and 10 years typically.
What do we do in Ripple?
At Ripple, we do things slightly differently as we want Ripple members to get their green electricity as soon as possible.
Identify potential projects
We identify potential projects that are already consented. We find these from publicly available records, or respond to approaches from developers.
Carry out high level due-diligence
We then have our experienced project teams carry out high level due diligence to determine the buildability and operability of the project, as well as what the financial return would look like for our members.
Make an offer
If everything looks good, we’ll make an offer to the developer.
Enter period of exclusivity
If the offer is accepted, we then enter a period of exclusivity where we instruct external legal and technical support to dig into the detail of the project risks and viability to confirm the project is worth the co-op purchasing for the terms agreed.
The co-op then enters into a Share Purchase Agreement
The co-op then enters into a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) with the developer. The SPA sets out the terms of the acquisition of the shares of the project company. This holds all of the property agreements and the grid connection offer which are key for the project.
The co-op launches a share offer
The co-op then launches a share offer – this is where you buy your shares in the project co-op. Once sufficient funds are raised by the share offer, we ‘complete’ the SPA and the shares of the project company transfer to the co-op. We then progress towards the construction phase, discharging remaining planning conditions and putting various contracts into place,
The timescale for this whole process can vary significantly. For our first project, Graig Fatha, this took around 18 months. But for our most recent project, Derril Water, this took less than 3 months.
What do we look for in a Ripple project?
For each project we look into, we want to make it as impactful for our Ripple members as possible. This means that the key things we look for are:
A grid connection date
Planning consent with conditions that can be met
An attraction financial proposition
A developer willing to sell
Risks that are sufficiently mitigable
With these in mind, we ensure that the Ripple projects offer the best outcome for the project owners (Ripple members). Every project is different, which is what makes it exciting! We look forward to working on new and diverse projects that offer new opportunities for households and businesses to make real climate impact and support the generation of cheaper, greener electricity across the UK. Check out our recent blogs if you want more insight into what makes up wind farms and solar parks and how they work to generate electricity.