Irish clean-tech firm BNRG to build €35m solar park in the UK

12 Aug 2013

Neil Holman and David Maguire, founder-directors of BNRG Renewables, at a solar park in Puriton, Somerset, UK

BNRG Renewables, an Irish solar-farm developer, is to start the build of a solar park worth €35m in the UK in September. The Dublin company will be partnering with London-based Lightsource Renewable Energy, after securing a 25-year planning permission to construct the 20-megawatt park in Kent – that’s according to BNRG director David Maguire, an environmental scientist. The new solar park could be operational by January 2014. During the build, up to 120 construction jobs are expected to come on-stream.

Apparently, this could be one of the UK’s biggest solar parks when built.

BNRG’s main speciality is in developing utility-scale solar PV plants that have low carbon footprints.

Maguire, who co-founded BNRG Renewables with fellow director Neil Holman, said the solar park will span 120 acres at Sycamore Farm, Old Romney in Kent.

He said that, when built, the farm’s combined solar PV panels will have the scope to produce enough electricity to power more than 6,600 homes in the UK for 30 years.

Up to 82,000 solar panels, each with a capacity of 245 watts, will be deployed at the solar park.

Maguire said the solar farm would have a zero carbon-emission output. He said that the goal would be for the farm to help the UK lower its overall national carbon emissions.

The get-go for the project

According to Maguire and Holman, Shepway District Council’s Development Control Committee voted 15 votes to one to support the scheme.

When Sycamore Farm eventually goes live, the duo said that BNRG Renewables will have completed solar-park developments with a combined value of €148m. The company has been constructing solar parks since 2008.

The development phase of the Sycamore Farm project has been funded by BNRG. Meanwhile, British investment specialist Octopus Investments is providing the construction funding.

The project will be jointly constructed by BNRG and Lightsource Renewable Energy – the latter is one of the UK’s most well-known developers of solar plants.

Most of the solar farms that BNRG develops are located abroad.

Investments for institutional and pension funds

BNRG is headquartered in Dublin’s Green International Financial Services Centre (Green IFSC) – part of the IFSC on the Dublin docklands.

The Green IFSC is part of a new drive by the Irish Government and the investment community to capitalise on the IFSC’s expertise in financial services, institutional and pension funds, especially with the global race to go green in areas such as transport, energy and aviation.

Maguire said the company is headquartered in the Green IFSC not just because BNRG’s founders are Irish, but also because there is a pool of development, legal and accounting expertise in the Irish renewables sector that the company can harness.

“GIFSC has done a great job promoting Ireland as a centre for green finance,” explained Maguire.

Ireland, he believes, could become a “major” international centre for sustainable-energy development and finance, just as it previously became a major international centre for aviation and aviation finance.

“There is no reason why renewables can’t go the way of aviation finance in Ireland,” he said.

Making Ireland a haven for green investors

Stephen Nolan, executive director of the Green IFSC, has today welcomed BNRG’s latest solar-park win in the UK.

He said that the company reflected the goal to make the Green IFSC a global leader in green-asset management by building upon Ireland’s “world-class international financial services centre”.

Nolan described Ireland as having one of the best business environments in the world, as well as a wealth of natural resources – think offshore wind and ocean energy scope – innovative green companies with global network and what he described as an “emerging talent pool” of green finance specialists.

“Together these unique selling points provide all the ingredients needed to enable Ireland to emerge as the global leader in green finance. We aim to increase ‘green assets’ managed or serviced in Ireland from today’s US$20bn to US$200bn by 2017.”

As for BNRG’s founders, Neil Holman is a chartered accountant by trade, while David Maguire is an environmental scientist. In the past he has worked wth the Environmetal Protection Agency (EPA) here in Ireland.

At the minute BNRG has projects under development in seven countries across three continents.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic