July 16, 2012
Teignbridge DC Minutes Reveal Reasons for Refusing Tedburn Solar Farm
The minutes of the meeting of the Teignbridge District Council planning committee have now been published, including the debate about a proposed 40 acre solar farm at Gold's Cross Hill near Tedburn St. Mary that I contributed to last Monday.
My own contribution to events is summarised accurately if rather tersely! Not least because my time ran out before I had a chance to explicitly make the point, no mention is made of the fact that if local energy storage were to be "retro-fitted" to a large scale solar PV park at some point over its anticipated 25 year life span it would inevitably have a significant impact on the site one way or another. Whether the technology involved is a large pile of Nissan Leaf batteries, Donald Sadoway's containers full of liquid metal or Jonathan Howes' silos full of hot and cold gravel, it takes up a lot of space. If you bury the storage medium underground there is an impact on future agricultural use of the land. If you leave it above ground it will have a visual impact that goes well beyond anything shown on the developer's current drawings.
Andy Leithgoe's objections to the proposal on "landscape" grounds as well as the "inappropriate use of farmland" are summarised also. In favour of the proposal Stuart Homewood of Inazin made the point that:
Some 200 sites have been inspected in relation to renewable energy and the current site is one of the best in the south west for efficiency of renewable energy output because of its south facing direction and proximity to the national grid.
"Proximity to the grid" does indeed seems to be a prime driver as far as solar farm developers are concerned, with the Bowhay Farm site near Shillingford being a notable exception to the apparent rule that a set of 33 kV cables should run across a "suitable site". In that case the nearest such set of overhead cables is around half a kilometre away from the boundary of the proposed solar park. One can't help but wonder if the cost of laying half a kilometre of underground cable isn't higher up on Inazin's list of priorities than selecting a suitable site on the basis of landscape and/or agricultural considerations!
One also can't help but wonder why if "efficiency of renewable energy output" is a prime consideration in Inazin's calculations they aren't concentrating on building onshore wind turbines instead of large scale solar PV parks. As I pointed out to the Teignbridge planning committee on Monday, according to the latest statistics released by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, over the course of 2011 onshore wind in the UK achieved a "load factor" of 27.3%, whereas solar PV managed only a measly 5.5%. Wind turbines use up far less surface area of productive agricultural land too.
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