Renewables investment vehicle NextEnergy Solar Fund (NESF) is looking into retrofitting storage facilities on its existing solar assets in the UK.

NESF confirmed it was “exploring the feasibility” of energy storage facilities during its half-yearly report, published yesterday as major financial services company Legal & General purchased a 5.59% voting stake in the group.

The group’s half-year results for the period ended 30 September 2016 revealed that NESF’s portfolio of 33 solar PV assets in the UK generated 284.4GWh of electricity in the period, some 3.2% above expectations. Rising power prices – NESF has now upgraded its forecasts by 4.5% – also contributed towards a 3.6% NAV per share increase to 102p.

NESF is continuing its long-stated ambitions to increase its foothold in the UK solar market and expects to increase its portfolio throughout the remainder of the financial year.

“During the second half of the financial year, we expect to deploy the recently raised capital in the attractive pipeline of identified opportunities,” NESF chairman Kevin Lyons said, pointing towards an acquisition pipeline NESF has repeatedly mentioned of late.

And the company has now said it is looking into advancing its interests in the UK energy market by exploring the possible retrofitting of battery storage technologies onto its existing solar farms.

“The investment manager remains fully engaged in monitoring technological change in the energy sector and is already exploring the feasibility of the application of energy storage facilities to the company's portfolio of solar PV plants.

“Consequently, the company is well-positioned to incorporate the continuing innovation in energy technology and benefit from the associated incremental returns and/or cost reductions in solar energy generation and storage,” Lyons added.

Notably, the Kentishes Solar Farm NESF acquired last month could be connected to a utility-scale energy storage facility after Push Energy – the original developers of the solar farm – received planning permission for one adjacent to the site in October.

NESF’s storage ambitions could be boosted by the purchase of a 5.59% stake in the group from investment giants Legal & General. Filings published yesterday revealed that L&G had purchased more than 26.7 million shares in the group.

At the time of announcing its proposed share issuance programme NESF confirmed that one institutional investor intended to subscribe for as much as £55 million of new shares, and the firm is no stranger to such institutional investors having previously tempted Prudential into partnering with them for a €150 million investment in the Italian solar market.

In August last year Legal & General said it remained committed to investing in the UK’s solar sector despite the government’s curtailing of support.

“Taking a balanced approach to energy generation, and prioritising research and development, would give us greater flexibility in moving towards renewable energy sources. The cost of renewable energy has fallen considerably in the last few years and now is the time for investors and governments to get things moving,” chief executive Nigel Wilson said at the time.

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