Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell has unveiled its first foray into UK solar development, announcing a pair of partnerships that will see it develop more than 800 megawatts of capacity.

Shell signed a deal with developer Island Green Power on an initial 700MW-plus PV portfolio, with co-located battery storage potential.

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The second partnership is with UK-based Clearstone Energy, covering projects with combined capacity of 100MW, with “co-located storage potential”. Both deals are subject to future final investment decisions.

Shell – which is already active in solar in other markets around the world – will use the solar capacity “to generate renewable power close to customer demand” as part of a wider plan to build an integrated energy business in the UK market.

Shell does already operate a power provider in the UK following the 2017 acquisition of First Utility, which was completed in 2018. It rebranded the company to Shell Energy in 2019, at the same time announcing it had switched all of its residential customers to 100% renewable electricity.

Shell UK chairman David Bunch said: “Shell is building an integrated power business which spans the renewable generation, trading and supply of clean energy to businesses and consumers.

“We will work with both Island Green Power and Clearstone Energy to deliver high-quality solar PV projects to supply more of our UK customers with renewable power.”

Shell is already active in solar development in other markets, alongside major forays into offshore wind – including floating turbines – as part of a push to create a renewable energy base.

News of Shell's UK solar foray came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed plans to switch British power generation to an overwhelmingly renewable and nuclear base by 2035 – a task commentators said would require huge additions of new wind and solar, alongside storage and a revamped grid.

Like onshore wind, large-scale solar PV will later this year be eligible to compete in UK government renewable energy auctions after five years of being excluded from the process. However, with the amount of funds earmarked for the two sources tiny compared to that devoted to offshore wind, developments are expected to be highly reliant on off-taker deals with utilities, corporate power buyers or the wholesale market to underpin their viability.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's renewable energy sister publication Recharge on 5 October, 2021)