Energy Generation - PV

Rooftop PV

Rooftop solar is a good and sensible investment in the future that homeowners can do. CSE (Centre for Sustainable Energy) has lots of good information: see for example:

https://www.cse.org.uk/advice/renewable-energy/solar-pv

CSE questions for installers

Solar Farms

Wiltshire is quite a sunny place on average so land of low agricultural quality near grid connection points are quite optimum places for solar farms.

Whilst rooftop solar is more effecient in terms of land usage, it is less efficient in terms of material use and much more labour intensive, time consuming and expensive to install, and the opportunities are limited. Rapidly achieving the scale of renewable energy we need requires solar farms to complement rooftop solar. The websites for the proposals below go into more detail.

openinframap.org shows existing grid infrastructure and generation in Wiltshire.

Solar farm planning applications in Wiltshire: urgent comments needed

There are currently three planning applications for solar farms in Wiltshire, with a potential generating capacity of 150MW (50MW each), which would increase Wiltshire’s solar PV capacity by 25% and power over 45,000 homes.  This will make a major contribution to helping achieve Wiltshire’s net zero carbon targets.  The sites will also result in significant net biodiversity gain, which is also critical to local environmental goals.

 

We would like to encourage our members to respond to Wiltshire Council Planning in support of these applications.  This is a very simple online process, and deadlines are soon for two of the applications.

 

Some people may have reservations about solar farms, so you may like to consider the following points:

  • The UK needs significantly more renewable energy generation if we are to meet our carbon reduction targets.

  • Rooftop solar makes a useful contribution but is more expensive and will never be sufficient to meet our needs.

  • Solar farms, along with onshore wind, are the lowest cost form of electricity generation, and are not subsidised.  Fossil fuel generation and nuclear are much more expensive, even with the extensive subsidies they enjoy (source: BEIS).

  • National planning rules mean that onshore wind is effectively banned, so if Wiltshire is to generate significant renewable energy in the next few years it can only come from solar farms.  Wiltshire is not particularly windy anyway, but does get a good amount of sunshine.

  • As a point of reference, if all the UK’s current electricity were generated from solar farms, they would cover around 2.2% of the land, whereas agricultural production covers 72%.  (sources: World Bank, Eden Renewables).  In practice a large proportion of electricity will come from wind, especially offshore; but both technologies are important to provide distributed generation and even out peaks and troughs.

  • Solar farms deliver gains in biodiversity and carbon sequestration by leaving the land under the panels fallow and allowing wildlife to flourish undisturbed.

The three applications are as follows. If you have little time you can just submit a brief comment and select "support" from the menu. Ideally the comment should mention material planning considerations and policies, such as:

 

Forest Gate website - consultation closing imminently

 

Leigh Delamare website - consultation closing imminently

 

Minety website  

If the simple comment forms are not working for any reason, you could email developmentmanagement@wiltshire.gov.uk quoting the planning application reference numbers. But it is better to use the forms if possible so that the comments will go more directly onto the respective planning applications.

Points you might like to make in your own words could include:

  • Each site will generate enough low cost power for the equivalent of over 13,800 homes and save over 20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, making a major contribution towards Wiltshire’s net zero target. 

  • The land used is low grade (3b) agricultural land. 

  • The projects will result in significant net biodiversity gain through wildflower meadows across the site, tree and hedge planting, enhancing soil quality by leaving the land fallow, boosting carbon sequestration while allowing continued food production with grazing sheep.

  • They are temporary developments, for 40 years.  After the solar farm is decommissioned the land can be restored to agricultural use and the solar panels and infrastructure can be easily recycled. 

  • The developers have taken considerable steps to minimise the visual impact of the farm for local residents.  In the case of Leigh Delamare, the site is adjacent to the M4 so the area is already impacted by development.

  • The Forest Gate and Leigh Delamare projects will each deliver a community fund of over £800,000 over the lifetime of the project, providing significant benefits for local people.

  • For the Leigh Delamare site, the location next to the M4 service station will allow high-speed electric vehicle charging points to be provided powered directly by the solar generation (via battery storage).

 

We strongly encourage WCA members to comment in support of these applications and thank you for considering this.

 

Adam Walton

WCA Energy Group Chair and Steering Group member