Sunday 17 November 2019

Lightsource and BlackRock in £1bn solar energy deal

'Lightsource currently has seven solar farms in Northern Ireland, including the first commercial solar farm on the island which is located beside Belfast International Airport.' (stock image)
'Lightsource currently has seven solar farms in Northern Ireland, including the first commercial solar farm on the island which is located beside Belfast International Airport.' (stock image)
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Lightsource, the solar energy business run by Antrim man Nick Boyle, has signed a £1bn partnership deal with investment giant BlackRock.

The deal will see the partners seek to buy and own solar assets worth £1bn, aiming to consolidate the market.

The partnership, which the companies are calling Kingfisher, will be kicked off with a newly constructed BlackRock portfolio of assets plus a Northern Irish project being built by Lightsource which will generate 50 megawatts of power at its peak. The BlackRock entity involved is BlackRock Real Assets - which invests in real estate and infrastructure.

Lightsource currently has seven solar farms in Northern Ireland, including the first commercial solar farm on the island which is located beside Belfast International Airport.

It has secured planning permission for a 20-megawatt solar farm in Tipperary and is also going through the planning process for a project at Ballyvatta in East Cork.

"Going forward, Lightsource and BlackRock Real Assets will target the acquisition of operational utility scale solar assets in the UK over a three-year period," Kingfisher said, adding that it had a project finance facility in place with RBS.

Rory O'Connor, managing director and head of renewable power for Europe at BlackRock, said the company thinks the UK market "continues to present attractive opportunities for institutional investors".

"In working closely together with Lightsource as a leading developer and operator of solar projects we are confident to realise a lot of additional potential in the market," O'Connor added.

BlackRock Real Assets manages more than $4.8bn of equity assets worldwide in the renewable sector.

The deal will see Lightsource provide operations and asset management services for the Kingfisher platform.

Boyle told the Belfast Telegraph last year that he believes the potential of the solar industry is "absolutely enormous", adding that he thinks solar projects are easier for people to live with than wind projects.

"There is a really interesting photograph caption on our website, which says 'a view of our solar farm from the next field'," said Boyle.

"It's actually a picture of a hedge. If you use solar panels which are placed around 2.5 or 2.8 metres off the ground, it's not beyond the wit of man to appropriately place these things where they're not an eyesore and not interfering with views," he said.

"With solar, the advantage is that all you need is somewhere that points up. Wind by definition needs to be somewhere that's windy - and that by definition tends to mean somewhere exposed, where you can see for miles," added Nick.

"Solar doesn't have that issue. In most places, you can simply point up so that you have access to sun."

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