The Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG) has stated it had “a strong start to the year” despite its UK portfolio of solar assets delivering lower than expected output, with one development down for two months earlier in the year.
TRIG recently published its half year results for 2017 which showed profit before tax of £31.3 million, with most of its solar projects performing close to budget. However, some assets were said to have been beset by “exceptional downtime”, most motably the 11MW Penare solar farm in Cornwall which had an outage for just over two months stemming from “grid issues”.
The cause has yet to be determined, with a spokesperson stating data from the event showed instability on the grid at around the time of the failure. It is said this could have been “a lightning strike, (other) generator or user activity, grid equipment failure or something else”.
Whatever the cause, the surge caused onsite protection device failures with detailed analysis identifying a need for additional electrical surge protection requirements, which have now been put in place.
The site returned to full operational status following the outage in April and May, while an insurance claim of almost £400,000 is currently under review.
TRIG may have also faced losses from its 5MW site on the Isle of Wight after Solar Power Portal revealed in June that a number of generators on the island were curtailed for the majority of April to accommodate network upgrades carried out by National Grid and SSE.
Rectification works were needed to address build quality issues on some English solar sites such as panel micro-cracks or back plate scratching, corrosion of combiner boxes or inverters and inter-panel electrical connectors, and ground faults/water ingress into inter-array cables.
TRIG was able to mitigate the losses from its UK sites with production from its 17 French solar farms, which have a combined capacity of over 34MW versus the UK’s 121MW.
During the six months to 30 June covered in the results, TRIG also replaced the project finance debt pertaining to three of the UK solar projects in order to take advantage of the current supportive lending environment for infrastructure assets and low long term cost of debt.
The replacement debt for the three projects in Cornwall is at a lower cost, which TRIG says has enhanced the value of these assets and improved investment returns.
Despite the challenges posed in the UK, TRIG – managed by InfraRed Capital Partners and Renewable Energy Systems – has said it still enjoys strong long term cash flows from a stable and diversified investment portfolio across multiple geographies.
As a result, it is said to be well positioned against challenges posed by weaker than expected power prices and by “the broad political uncertainties in the UK created by Brexit and the recent UK general election”.
Regardless of these issues, TRIG is said to be confident it will be able to acquire opportunities for further portfolio acquisitions in several areas, particularly following its first foray into large scale storage with the recent acquisition of the 20MW Broxburn project.
The company has also identified “a new generation” of subsidy-free installations as an area of potential investment although SPP understands TRIG is remaining cautious about the prospects of these projects in the immediate term.
Richard Crawford, director of Infrastructure at TRIG manager InfraRed Capital Partners, said: “The company has had a strong start to the year. We have invested about £150 million, including TRIG’s first investment in Wales and the Company’s first energy storage transaction, which was completed after the period end.
“Although competition for renewables projects remains strong, we maintain a disciplined approach to sourcing investments across our target technologies and geographies. We look forward to delivering further consistent income as well as achieving additional scale efficiencies and liquidity for our investors.”