Britain’s biggest solar farms receive more cash from green subsidies than from selling the electricity they produce, figures reveal.
Energy producers were encouraged to start solar farms with generous handouts funded by a ‘green levy’ on taxpayers’ bills.
But many of them now make the majority of their cash from the subsidy – instead of the electricity they produce.
Solar panels at Kencot Hill solar farm in Lechlade, England. Britain’s biggest solar farms receive more cash from green subsidies than from selling the electricity they produce
The total subsidy provided to all generators of solar electricity last year is estimated to be about £1.2billion.
This was part of the £5.6billion subsidy paid to green energy producers, which critics say inflates household energy bills.
Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) following a Freedom of Information request show ten of the biggest solar farms in the country pocketed more than £2.5million each in eco-subsidy last year.
The payouts were offered to help increase the amount of ‘green’ energy produced in the UK.
The solar subsidy is responsible for around £15 a year on a household power bill.
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However the system – which guarantees the handouts for 15 or 20 years – has been overly generous.
Treasury officials have stopped new deals being made with solar farms in a bid to stop haemorrhaging huge amounts of cash.
But farms with existing deals are guaranteed generous handouts until the end of their contracts.
Last year’s biggest beneficiary was the Owl’s Hatch Solar park, in Herne Bay, Kent.
The 200-acre site generated just over 54,000 MWh of electricity, worth around £2.5million, but was given a handout of £3.8million.
The farm is owned by Cubico Sustainable Investments, which has seven other smaller solar farms in England.
The nation’s largest installation, Shotwick Solar Park, in Deeside, North Wales, was handed a £3.5million subsidy, which was pocketed by owner Foresight Solar Fund.
It also generated electricity worth around £2.5million.
Dr Lee Moroney, of the Renewable Energy Foundation charity, said: ‘The moratorium on new subsidies to renewables was the right thing to do, but it is a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
‘The legacy subsidies are themselves so high … that Government must consider retrospective cuts to reduce what is an unreasonable burden on the consumer and the wider economy.’
The Solar Trade Association said: ‘Like all new technologies solar needed support in the early days to get off the ground … Today solar doesn’t need any significant subsidy at all.’
A spokesman for BEIS said: ‘The UK is leading the world in cutting emissions … Government support has kick-started the UK’s solar industry enabling the costs of solar to reduce dramatically, so that solar can eventually stand on its own, subsidy free.’