Saturday, 17 May 2014

Solar Plan for Sidmouth: a second application stalls as subsidies are questioned...

Following the Town Council's rejection of the second application to erect a solar farm near Sidbury
Futures Forum: Solar Plan for Sidmouth: a second application fails

... the Herald predicted problems once the application reached the District Council:
Huge solar farm plan faces rejection - News - Sidmouth Herald

Here's the story from the View from Sidmouth:

SIDMOUTH: Solar farm plans stalled

13th May 2014 By Jack Dixon.

Plans for a large-scale solar farm to be built outside Sidbury have been stalled, after planning chiefs decided to make a further inspection of the site before reaching a final decision.

The application, submitted by energy firm Lumicity Ltd, proposes to install around 30,000 solar panels and other associated buildings on land at East Hill Strips, over a period of 25 years. It is predicted that the development, which spans more than 18 hectares, would be sufficient to provide the annual electricity needs of 1,680 households and would save almost 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide otherwise generated through burning fossil fuels.

Initial plans were thrown out last year, but modifications made in the latest application are still causing controversy, with campaign group Natural England particularly concerned about the impact of such a large development being built on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Members of East Devon District Council’s development management committee met to discuss the application on Thursday of last week (May 8th), and despite being advised in a report to refuse it, councillors agreed to inspect the site again.

Councillor Chris Wale, East Devon District Councillor for the Sidmouth Rural ward, said sustainable developments such as these were vital in order to help solve the current “energy crisis”. He said: “Many proposed sources of low carbon energy - such as wind farms or nuclear power stations - attract huge local controversy and opposition for obvious and various reasons, particularly noise and potential pollution issues to name a few. In this case, however, we have a clean renewable energy project that is not causing any local controversy or opposition - in fact, there is solid local support - so we should be embracing rather than refusing this application. The landscape and visual impact assessment submitted alongside the planning application shows clearly that the site and proposed solar arrays are quite literally invisible from all key vantage points.

“It is true to say that renewable will also have a crucial role to play in the UK energy mix in the decades beyond making the most of the UK’s abundant natural resources. This application can, in a small way, help us to achieve this without endangering this landscape.”

Objections to the proposed development range from increased flood risk and high traffic volumes, to concern about the archaeological value of the site. 
A spokesperson for Natural England said: “This part of East Devon AONB is a tranquil, undeveloped, pastoral, agricultural landscape, the character of which will be significantly affected by the introduction of ‘industrial’ solar infrastructure, where currently there is no building infrastructure of any kind.
“This development proposal is contrary to the stated policies relating to the character and special qualities of the AONB.”

A further inspection of the site will take place, before a final decision is made by EDDC’s development management committee.

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

Meanwhile, as reported in yesterday's Western Morning News, there are fears for the future of long-term support for large-scale solar farms:

Solar supporters warn loss of subsidy will be 'devastating'

By Western Morning News | Posted: May 16, 2014

By Phil Goodwin, WMN reporter, Twitter: @goodwin_phil

The Government has been warned against ditching support for large-scale solar farms – a move which could hit the Westcountry hard and “devastate” investment.

The response comes as one of the most high-profile projects in the region was approved on Wednesday.

The 60-acre site, containing 45,000 panels and generating up to 8.8 megawatts (MW) at Combeshead farm, Diptford, in Devon, is the fourth scheme to be passed by planners in the South Hams.

It has been vocally opposed by Totnes Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who has asked Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to call in the application.

In a separate scheme at Brixton, near Plymouth, a 52-acre array of 30,000 individual panels costing £15million is also planned by Due South Energy and SunEdison. Ministers announced this week that they want to shut the programme that underwrites big solar projects through household energy bills in April 2015, two years earlier than expected.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) argues far more projects have been built than expected, putting a strain on the allocated budget and causing resentment in local communities.

The industry has criticised Conservative ministers for “negative comments” and now a lawyer in the region’s renewables sector says scrapping the subsidy scheme for projects above 5MW could be “extremely detrimental” in the region.

Sonya Bedford, a partner and head of renewable energy at Stephens Scown LLP, said abandoning the payments under the Renewables Obligation could be “potentially devastating” for the Westcountry.

“Solar is one of the most popular renewable energy technologies and government support has meant that prices have been consistently coming down,” she added. “If it is introduced this change could result in solar going up in price, reducing competition and ultimately costing the consumer more. Investors will be reading this news and questioning whether they should be choosing to invest in UK solar. That is bad news for the economy as a whole.”

An announcement is expected on levels of support for large arrays of ground-mounted photo-voltaic panels.

Supporters say the technology is one of the “cheapest, cleanest and most popular” forms of energy in the UK.

A recent study by DECC found that 85% of people supported solar power, compared to just 29% who backed the development of shale gas resources through “fracking”.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “Financial support for solar has already fallen, and any further reductions should only be carried out in a planned way as costs drop.

“Suddenly pulling the rug from under a popular, growing, clean energy industry makes no sense – and would put thousands of jobs at risk. Ministers should be looking to support the best large-scale solar projects - that can also boost bio-diversity – and do far more to promote local ownership.”

The Solar Trade Association said that 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar farms added just £1 to consumer bills. Some 2GW has been installed in the UK, with plans for as much as 10GW by 2020, which would take up 0.1% of UK land power three million homes and prevent 4.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, it added.

Solar supporters warn loss of subsidy will be 'devastating' | Western Morning News

See also:
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy?
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy.. at a local level?
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy? another look at nuclear...

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