Solar farm proposals plan to champion local economy of Somerton in Somerset

January 16, 2014
Posted by in Agriculture, Suppliers & Service Providers, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

British solar farm developer and operator, Lightsource Renewable Energy, is hoping to submit a proposal for a solar farm which will not only generate clean electricity for 2,000 local homes but also create opportunities for local businesses and employment.

The firm has launched a campaign today seeking involvement from the local community in shaping and designing its solar farm proposals. Information on preliminary designs and this ‘Get Involved’ campaign have been sent out today to the local residents and a drop-in information evening will be held on 28th January at Edgar Hall, 8 Cary Court, Somerton Business Park, Somerton, TA11 6SB between 5:30 and 7:30pm.

Tavells Panels and Flowers Retouch

Conor McGuigan, Business Development Director, says:

“The way a solar farm is laid out means that over two thirds of the land is open grassland. In the case of Somerton Door, the open grassland would account for 29 out of the planned 42 acres. All of this land needs to be responsibly cared for and this involves much more than just technical expertise. There are many ways people can get involved – from the point of design right through to construction, fencing, and enhancing habitats for local wildlife.”

Lightsource is currently seeking the following expertise/involvement in this scheme from the local area:

  • Residents to provide local knowledge and input into the initial designs and planning
  • Wildlife enthusiasts – solar farms provide excellent opportunities to enhance biodiversity in the local area
  • Security personnel
  • Traffic management & civil roadways experts
  • Accommodation & Food and Beverage providers
  • Storage and logistics businesses
  • Fencing experts
  • Landscapers specialising in local/native species

Conor continues:

“Championing the local economy is at the core of what we do. Solar power is a dependable source of energy, and farming it creates a great opportunity to establish a sustainable supply chain and prioritise local business and skills.”

The Preliminary designs of the proposed Solar Farm include gaps over 5 meters between the rows of panels, on which sheep will be grazed and all existing hedgerow and woodland will be retained. Biodiversity enhancements include wild flower seeding to encourage pollinators and insects, bird and bat boxes specifically designed for bat roosting and barn owl nesting and new tree and hedgerow planting to provide screening from public footpaths and further habitat enhancements.

Conor elaborates:

“We have chosen to progress with our proposals for this area because it is already well screened by existing hedgerows and woodland to the south, east and west. Much of the new screening will be focussed along the northern boundary where the site runs parallel with the River Cary. We have consulted with independent ecologists and will provide an 8m buffer zone between the new hedgerow and river to ensure the existing ecosystem is undisturbed.”

The firm’s in-house planning team are in the process of gathering results from independently commissioned wildlife and landscape assessments which will feed into the solar farms proposals.

Conor concludes:

“It is still early days and we are several weeks away from a final proposal. We encourage anyone who would like to get involved to make contact with us and also come along to our community information evening on the 28th of January to find out more, provide input or register with us as a local service provider.”

For more information about Lightsource Renewable Energy and its proposals for a solar farm at Somerton Door, contact 0333 200 0755 (UK) or email quoting ‘Somerton Door’.

A walk on the wild side (pdf)

Solar farms love diversification (pdf)

Somerton Door Community Information Pack (pdf)

Frequently asked questions:

Why harvest energy instead of food?
It isn’t a choice – solar farms do both. All of our sites are designed to accommodate grazing of small livestock, enabling us to generate energy whilst continuing to supply the food chain.

Are solar farms irreversible development?
No. The panels are mounted on an aluminium framework with steel legs which are pile driven into the soil. At the end of our lease period (usually about 25 years) the framework will be dismantled and removed without harming the land.

Will construction cause disruption?
It would take about 2 months to install the solar farm at Somerton Door, averaging about 6 deliveries per day. A traffic management plan would be put in place to avoid disruption, including organising off-peak daytime deliveries. An on-site manager would also be on hand to deal with any queries and avoid inconvenience.

Are solar farms noisy?
No, you would not expect to hear any noise at all beyond the site boundary. The production of electricity happens silently. The inverters, and the fans which keep them cool at peak times, emit a low, quiet, humming noise. At night the equipment makes no sound at all because it only works during daylight hours.

How will the equipment be protected?
The solar farm would be enclosed by a deer fence of about 2 metres in height, appropriate for its rural setting. Closed circuit security cameras would also be in place and would only activate when movement is detected. The cameras use infra-red technology so no flood lighting is required.

Is there a danger to motorists or aircraft as a result of reflection from the panels?
No, solar panels are designed to absorb light rather than reflect it so any reflection is dull and minimal. A glint and glare assessment is always carried out as part of our planning process but it is generally accepted that solar farms are not dangerous to aircraft – many airports have solar installations on their premises, including London Gatwick.