Why Obton is developing and building more solar farms from scratch
We can reap all kinds of benefits when we are involved in the development of new solar energy projects from the very start. Access to new, upcoming markets and competitive advantages are among the factors that are crucial to the strategy.
In recent years, Obton A/S has transformed from being purely an investor in solar power to a new role as an actual solar power developer.
“Whereas we previously focused on buying existing solar farms, ready-to-build installations or turnkey projects as straight-up investment objects, we’ve now added another pillar to our business in that we ourselves will be developing new solar farms from scratch,” relates Mikkel Abildtrup Pedersen, Chief Operations Officer. He continues:
“We’re keen to enter the value chain at an earlier point on certain markets. This is the approach we’ve been following in the Netherlands for several years, and in 2020 we made a strong entry onto the Irish market, where we’re already working on planning 11 confirmed solar projects with a total capacity of 118 MW.”
As a part of the new strategic direction, Obton has been working to establish and expand Obton Tech since 2019. This unit is staffed by a team of around 25 technical experts based in multiple locations in Europe, who have every opportunity to bring their skills to bear on development projects.
First mover in Ireland
Because Ireland is a new market for solar energy, Obton has had the opportunity to snap up some of the best locations with regard to electricity grid connection and access to potential purchasers of the power generated by the new solar farms. Klaus Andersen, Senior Business Developer and the person responsible for Obton’s Irish projects, explains:
“Being the first mover on a new market carries a number of clear benefits. It also requires a completely different set-up, where we bring skilled local personnel and partners into the process. We now have an office in Dublin where our seven Irish and British staff are working flat out to make the new solar farms a reality, in close consultation with Obton Tech and their colleagues in Denmark.”
Founded on thorough analyses
The project team conducts a range of analyses in order to pinpoint the most suitable locations for new solar farms.
“We always carry out a number of thorough analyses – particularly of the electricity grid – before entering into agreements with the various landowners. We do so by using 3D Google Earth Models overlaid with the different grid lines and an extra layer showing the different challenges that may exist in a given area.
For example, there may be issues concerning the location of high voltage cables, or having to lead the power generated through existing ground cables or via overhead lines. There may also be questions or obstacles regarding the placement of transformer stations or options for connection to the electricity grid. Once we have clarified all such issues, we perform a quick analysis of the related costs,” says Klaus Andersen.
In addition, the project team completes an analysis of the local authorities’ capacity and willingness to approve the new solar project. This all makes it possible to predict whether a project will pass successfully through the planning phase and connected to the electricity grid. Conditions are then in place to progress to the construction phase.
“The start of the construction phase is where Obton would previously have entered into an agreement. The benefit of the new approach is that we are now better placed to optimise the site and the design with a view to maximising exposure to solar irradiation and optimising our costs for connection to the electricity grid. These are all issues that benefit our investors at the end of the day,” concludes Klaus Andersen.