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Solar farm that could power 18,000 homes proposed in South Cambridgeshire

A solar farm that could create enough energy to power more than 18,000 homes is proposed for agricultural land in South Cambridgeshire.

Energy company Solarcentury has launched an online consultation about its plans for Stargoose Solar Energy Farm on a 65-hectare site on land currently farmed as part of the Childerley Estate.

A solar farm
A solar farm

The estate is home to the grade II-listed Childerley Hall, which is used as a venue to host events and weddings. The energy company says woodland between the proposed location and the Childerley Farm provides “good levels” of screening.

Gareth Hawkins, Solarcentury’s UK business development manager, said: “We had intended to share our plans with the local community in person but unfortunately this isn’t possible due to current government guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We are therefore carrying out a digital public consultation to make sure everyone, including local residents and our staff, remain as safe as possible.”

The site comprises two fields, lying east of Battlegate Road and north of Childerley village, near Boxworth and about a kilometre south of Bar Hill.

About a third of the 65 hectares will be dedicated to “habitat, biodiversity and landscape improvements”, the company says.

The solar farm will connect to an existing pylon line on the site.

“We firmly believe that renewable energy is the answer of two main challenges - firstly, creating energy without emissions and, secondly, combatting climate change,” says Gareth.

The farm would prevent 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, according to the company.

Solarcentury says other benefits would include the potential for community grants and local supply contracts worth up to £400,000

The proposed photovoltaic farm would feature rows of solar panels mounted on racks of metal poles, which Solarcentury said are typically up to three metres above the ground depending on the terrain, and tilted between 10 and 25 degrees.

The entrance will be from the existing track which goes to the Childerley Estate farmyard.

The company says: “The plans include a solar farm and an energy storage facility located on land that is currently farmed on the Childerley Estate.

The location for a proposed solar farm on the Childerley Estate. Map: Solarcentury
The location for a proposed solar farm on the Childerley Estate. Map: Solarcentury

“The solar generation will have a maximum output capacity of 60GWh, which could power up to 18,000 homes every year.

“The energy storage component is a series of batteries that will store energy from renewable energy generation when there is too much energy in the UK’s electricity infrastructure. At times of high demand, this energy can then be fed back into the grid.

“We are proposing a combined generation and storage system because decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply and the replacement of fossil fuel generation will require more sophisticated energy systems that store energy for use whenever it is needed – day or night.

The location for a proposed solar farm on the Childerley Estate. Map: Solarcentury
The location for a proposed solar farm on the Childerley Estate. Map: Solarcentury

“The electrical equipment will be located in a compound which has additional secure fencing due to the nature of the equipment it contains.”.

That application says the solar farm would have security measures, including “the installation of a high wire-mesh perimeter fencing designed to allow small animals to pass through the site.

Solarcentury expects to submit a planning application to South Cambridgeshire District Council in February. If granted, site preparation will begin this year, with construction due to take approximately six months.

Business rates generated by the project will make a contribution of about £140,000 contribution, says the company, which was founded 20 years ago, operates in 18 countries and is a subsidiary of Statkraft, the largest renewable energy producer in Europe.

For details on the consultation, visit solarcentury.com/stargoose/.

Solar capacity is growing

Government figures show that at the end of November 2020, solar capacity had reached 13,454MW across 1,057,418 installations - up 1.6 per cent (209MW) on the previous year.

Just under half (44 per cent) of the installed solar PV capacity comes from the 458 large scale installations - those larger than 5MW, such as solar farms. Whilst 93 per cent of all installations are below 4kW, these only provide 20 per cent (2,759MW) of the total installed solar PV capacity in the UK.

In 2019, 3.9 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption was provided by solar.

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