Stepnell Secures Refinancing for Two Large-Scale Solar Parks

Construction and civil engineering company Stepnell, in partnership with photovoltaics specialist services company Wirsol Solar UK, has built 20 per cent of the UK’s capacity in solar parks, and has secured £26 million to re-finance two new 40-acre, 5 megawatt solar photovoltaic parks: Islip Solar Park, near Islip in East Northamptonshire, and Springhill Solar Park in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire.

The two completed schemes were built by Stepnell and Wirsol, financed from Stepnell’s resources. Each solar park is expected to generate about 4,500,000kWh per annum - enough low-carbon electricity from the sun to power around 1,350 homes annually.

The refinancing will now enable the company, to be reimbursed for the projects’ construction costs.The two solar parks were undertaken in construction partnership with Wirsol Solar UK, reconnecting the senior management teams of the two companies who first worked together 20 years ago. The projects involved the installation of more than 4,000 driven post foundations and a fixed steel and aluminium lattice framework supporting over 20,000 photovoltaic panels on each 40 acre site. The panels are grouped into ‘tables’ which are connected to inverters that convert the DC current generated to AC which is stepped up through transformers to match the grid voltage.

“Both large-scale solar park projects which were completed last year, involved detailed designs to optimise the electrical output,” explains Stepnell director Richard Wakeford. “The financing was conditional on independent analysis predicting the annual output of each park and the quality of the installation ensuring the predicted output would be achieved.”

Stepnell and Wirsol used subcontractors and suppliers from the UK, Germany and Spain in the construction of the parks which were delivered within six weeks to meet the Government’s 31 July 2011 feed-in tariff deadline.

Wirsol’s managing director Peter Davies comments: “Stepnell and Wirsol Solar brought appropriate and complimentary experience and skills to these projects, and founded on the long and strong history between the senior directors, our project teams worked together easily, pragmatically, quickly and professionally to deliver these exciting renewable energy projects in short order, and most importantly to the requisite standard to pass all technical, legal and financial criteria set by the client, refinancing bank and advisory teams.”

Working closely with Stepnell and Wirsol on the refinancing were legal teams from Wragge & Co and DFA Law, the funders at the Energy Team in RBS, insurance brokers Aon and financial advisors and modellers Elgar Byrne Infrastructure Finance.

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