August 9, 2013
The Pros and Cons of South West Solar Farming
Generalising some points initially raised in another conversation, what are the advantages and disadvantages of large scale solar photovoltaic installations on farms in South West England? According to the planning application submitted earlier this month by the developer of one such site the advantages are:
This solar development will have a generation capacity of approximately 5.73 megawatts (MW), which is enough to power 1790 typical homes, and save approximately 3 million kg in CO2 emissions per annum – the equivalent of removing 670 standard cars from the road each year.
The developer doesn't mention the disadvantages of course, so I'll start that ball rolling. According to the same planning application:
The application area is 13.34ha in size being formed of two adjacent fields…. The site is classified as Agricultural Land Grade 2.
Starting with planning issues, it seems everybody one asks these days, from the NFU to the Solar Trade Association to the minister at DECC agrees this sort of thing is a bad idea, although they're not always very clear about why that is. Here's my perspective. The UK currently imports nearly 40% of the food we consume. Particularly with climate change now affecting food production both locally and globally, why should the citizens of the UK pay over the odds to turn some of the limited supply of land capable of growing their daily bread over to energy production? In fact why not save money by reducing the nation's energy consumption instead?
Moving on to technical issues, it seems some solar developers don't even understand the difference between a MW and a MWh! Do you suppose that they understand that large parts of the electricity distribution grid in South West England are already incapable of absorbing any more renewable electricity generation due to "over voltage" and/or "thermal overload" constraints?
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