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Birmingham firm fits out major solar power plant

Birmingham electrical services contractor JT Hawkes has brought renewable energy to 1,500 homes in Oxfordshire by fitting out Britain’s largest solar power plant.

The environmental specialist worked against the clock to design, install and commission the electricity plant for Westmill Solar Farm at Swindon in only six weeks.

JT Hawkes’ efforts enabled the farm to go live before 1 August when Government changes to “feed-in tariff” legislation take effect.

The five-megawatt solar power plant has resulted in Britain’s first combined “green energy zone”, with the farm already generating electricity through five wind turbines.

Combined energy output will be sufficient to power more than 40,000 homes for at least the next 25 years.

JT Hawkes, based in Witton, worked with German photovoltaic panel supplier Abakus on the £12 million solar farm for clients Blue Energy from Alderley Edge and Low Carbon Solar from Cirencester in installing almost 23,000 state-of-the-art PV solar plates covering 30 acres of land.

Harvesting daylight with no waste and no emissions, the panels have been mounted at a height of three metres on 68 kilometres of steel and are expected to feed renewable electricity into the national grid with an output equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 1,500 homes.

J T Hawkes designed and installed the entire power distribution network, which included the building of trenches for 184,000 metres of solar cable and 32-kilovolt power cabling.

Managing director John Hawkes, who established the company in 1978, said: “Our engineers rose to the challenge of using the latest technology to complete Britain’s largest solar power plant - and worked round the clock to get it finished in such a short period of time. We are delighted to be part of such a landmark scheme.”

The deal comes ahead of plans to close a solar incentive which allows developers of major solar installations to benefit from higher feed-in tariffs. The Government will controversially cut tariff support for solar systems with more than 50kW capacity by up to 70% from 1 August, amid fears that large solar farms would eat up funding earmarked for smaller installations.

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