Longfield Solar Farm, in Terling, Essex, was given approval for development this week by the UK government. Large enough to power about 60,000 homes, Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps stated that it would “deliver cheaper energy for consumers and businesses.”
A joint development between EDF Renewables and Padero Solar, the site, according to The Local Democracy Reporting Service, will be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. Shapps commented on the joint development, stating that it would “help ensure we fully harness the power of the sun and boost our energy security.”
The overall generating capacity would be up to 500MW. The site, which spans 939-acres, would also harbour battery storage.
The plans did initially come under attack, with claims that the development would result in loss of agricultural land and damage to biodiversity, however these were dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate and the project was eventually greenlit.
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David Wagstaff, deputy director of energy infrastructure planning at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, supports the new development, stating that the plans will “achieve measurable net gain in biodiversity”. He goes on to add that “there is an urgent need for additional electricity generating capacity” and that the development would “make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s transition to low carbon energy generation.”
However, locals are still unhappy with the development, claiming that the land used in this development is claiming valuable space for agriculture. In response to this, Paul Morrison, The Planning Inspectorate’s Chief Executive, stated “The Planning Inspectorate has now examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them.”
He goes on to add, “local people, the local authority and other interested parties were able to participate in this examination. The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to all local views and the evidence gathered during the Examination before making its recommendation to the Secretary of State.”
Despite some local scepticism, the development of new solar farms will help the UK work towards its net zero targets. The UK already has enough solar power installed to power up to 4 million homes, and with this new development, the potential of solar power will be harnessed even further, ensuring even more UK residents benefit from this sustainable energy alternative.