Plans approved to develop a 101 acre solar farm in Gloucestershire

Plans submitted by AEE Renewables to develop a 93 acres (37 hectares) Solar farm in South Gloucestershire have been given a unanimous vote of approval by the Council.

The solar array at Say Court farm, owned by the Bennets, will be the third largest in the country, saving over 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.

The panels will produce enough electricity to supply 4,200 households, increasing the amount of renewable energy in South Gloucester by two thirds, creating a big positive impact on the Council's climate change strategy.

The site on which it will be built is well-screened and previously used to grow energy crop (miscanthus). Despite using 50% more space, the miscanthus crop was only generating electricity for 275 households, a tiny fraction of the energy produced by the solar farm.

The solar farm will be temporary, with the land being returned to agricultural use after 25 years.

Niels Kroner, Executive Chariman said, “Part of AEE’s ethic when developing sites is to involve the community and protect the landscape. Consequently substantial changes to the design of the park were made in response to comments by residents and the planning authority. The area will be carefully landscaped, with parts becoming wildlife habitats. Sheep can grazing under and between the panels”.

The unanimous vote by committee members was likely due to the well developed submission where AEE had worked in close co-operation with the landowners, the acting agent Bateman North, the local community and the Avon Wildlife Trust amongst others. It was further encouraged by AEE’s pledge to continue to develop its best practice solar farm development with the aim of becoming the gold standard for Solar Farm Development in the UK.

Concerns raised by residents included the fact it was in a green belt area, glare from the panels and impact on wildlife and landscape.

Niels also said “What is rarely spoken of is the fact Solar Farms have huge benefits to nature when planned to the right standard. With the land being undisturbed for 25 years, it becomes an oasis for wildlife, encouraging birds, mammals, insects and reptiles to set up residence and flourish.”

Planning officers have given “considerable weight to the wider environmental benefits of the proposed development”.

The glare from the panels would mainly affect areas of open countryside and factors such as topography, railway embankments and large farm and industrial buildings would act to significantly reduce the impact of the glare.