January 5, 2013

Floods of Planning Poppycock in Teignbridge

The minutes of the meeting of the Teignbridge District Council planning committee held on November 26th have now been published. For some strange reason their coverage of my own contribution to those events is rather brief. It reads as follows:

Public Speaker: Objector, Mr Hunt – Objected to the proposal. However his objections did not raise any planning reasons to refuse the application. He urged the Applicant to withdraw the application.

You can read most of what I actually said at the meeting in a previous post, where you will note that I actually urged Inazin Solar to:

Stop wasting everybody else's time and money, withdraw this frivolous, free of charge application.  Do the same for the ongoing appeal

Inazin didn't withdraw their second planning application for a large scale solar photovoltaic park at Gold's Cross Hill, or indeed their appeal against Teignbridge's rejection of their first application. As previously reported, both were ultimately rejected, although lots of time and money were wasted in the processes.  On this particular occasion Inazin's representative said instead (according to the minutes, and amongst other things) that:

Extensive research and investigation is undertaken to find suitable sites. The proposal would provide power for 1400 homes.

That brings us on to the one new planning reason I felt sure I had brought up at the meeting, when I waved the offending paperwork at the assembled throng. Since nobody seems to have noticed I'll go over it one more time.  In an email to Teignbridge District Council dated 8th November 2012 15:31 Inazin made a number of statements in support of their argument that "there are a number of technical constraints which restrict the potential locations of sites". More specifically they stated that:

One of the most significant is the proximity to a good grid connection, this is usually to a 33kv or 132kv line in order to have the capacity for the level of power produced. Smaller sites, such as those that have been allowed to the east of Tedburn St Mary, are able to connect to an 11kv line, which has more limited capacity.

and that:

The grid connection also has to be in an area where the power produced can be used locally, as power cannot be fed back beyond the local substation to the main grid. In the case of the application site, this is located between Tedburn St Mary and Cheriton Bishop, both of which would use the power.

Inazin included in that document a map purporting to show high voltage overhead electricity cables and electricity substations in the vicinity of Tedburn St. Mary and the Fulford Estate, but they left out some significant details. Here's a much better approximation to where the relevant wires and substations are actually located:

The green line shows (roughly!) where the 33 kV overhead cables carrying electricity from the proposed solar park towards Tedburn St. Mary go, and the red line shows where 11 kV cables go.  Assuming Inazin really intended the Fulford Solar Park to power the homes and businesses of Tedburn, any electricity generated would need to firstly course through the green cables in an easterly direction, go straight through the Winslake Foot switching substation, then turn north to head for the Folly Bridge substation. There the 33 kV is transformed down to 11 kV, and the red cables come into play. They go back south again to Tedburn St. Mary, where a number of secondary substations transform the voltage down to 240 volts for consumption by the residents of Tedburn, not to mention keeping the lights on in the Winslake Foot substation. According to Google that's a total of 12 kilometers, almost half of which is at 11 kV.

It is evident to me, and hopefully to you also by now, that if this planning application is anything to go by Inazin Solar not only have great difficulty in distinguishing between a megawatt and a megawatt-hour, they also have no idea how their proposed solar park and the "main grid" to which they hoped to connect it actually operate. If you're not yet convinced please feel free to comment below, and I'll endeavour to explain in more detail. I'd also be grateful if you could explain to me why a demonstrably incompetent developer doesn't constitute a valid reason for refusing a major planning application.

Be that as it may, I do have to admit that my somewhat theatrical expression of my frustration at all this nonsense didn't endear me to all members of the planning committee. No doubt astonished by the novelty of my presentation, Councillor Jackie Brodie said that while she was starting to take on board some of my objections to the proposal, she felt that others were "poppycock". As you have probably gathered by now, my opinion is that Inazin are in fact the ones talking poppycock about solar PV. Jackie has since apologised to me in writing for this no doubt uncharacteristic outburst, going on to say that:

I believe we are essentially both on the same side, I hope so anyway, fighting to save the planet and secure our future energy security, whilst tackling climate change. I hope we can both continue to work towards that.

I hope so too, always remembering not to forget about the nation's food security of course, in the face of ever more extreme weather.

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