Skip to Content

How to Build a Solar Farm without Government Subsidies

September 26, 2017

In a nutshell: find a site where you can lean on existing infrastructure.

Just outside the genteel English town of Flitwick, a field has been filled with a British first: the Clayhill solar farm is the nation’s only such facility to have been built without any form of government subsidy. Anesco, the company that designed and built the 10-megawatt farm, is rightly proud of the feat, calling it “a landmark development” that “paves the way for a sustainable future.”

But while clean energy is certainly plummeting in price, the news doesn’t quite signal that government subsidies for renewables are no longer needed.

As the Financial Times points out, the solar farm is actually built next to another similar facility, which was built using a subsidy. That means much of the required infrastructure, such as grid connections, already existed for Clayhill to piggyback upon.

Not only that, there’s also a six-megawatt-hour grid battery on that site which Clayhill farm also makes use of, allowing it to store excess electricity that can be sold during times of high demand. Anesco’s executive chairman, Steve Shine, tells the newspaper that the installation “wouldn't pay with solar by itself at the moment ... it needs the storage as well.”

That’s totally reasonable, of course. And it’s not to belittle the achievement that’s been made here, which is both impressive and encouraging. But it does serve to underscore the fact that renewables still require a little help from governments if they’re to maintain their current momentum.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.