Palfreys Barton Farm in the village of Cove near Tiverton has recently become one of the latest farms in Devon to rent out a small percentage of its land to UK solar power generator, Lightsource Renewable Energy. The land will now accommodate a solar farm generating 0.96 MW of green energy – the equivalent of enough power for around 282 households (the approximate population of Stoodleigh and Oakford).
The solar farm will also save around 480,000 kg of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent of taking 106 cars off the road each year. However, before the scheme was given the go ahead by Mid-Devon Council in December 2012, there was the important matter of the local badger population to address.
Conor McGuigan, Business Development Director for Lightsource, explains, “As a responsible developer, before we apply for planning permission we always carry out our own viability studies of each proposed site. These include a visual impact report, a flood risk assessment and an ecology report, all of which are intended to make sure the land is used to its full potential and protected in the right way. In the case of Palfreys Barton Farm, our initial ecology report identified two badger setts, both in current use.
“We discussed our findings with Mid-Devon Council and were advised to conduct a detailed badger review. Lightsource worked closely with the council on this matter and the badger review affirmed the setts and identified a number of runs. We proceeded to ensure all construction works and the positioning of the PV panels will take place over 30m away from both setts as set out in Guidance published by Natural England.”
Badgers will not be the only mammals free to come and go across the site of the new solar farm. The farmer’s sheep will continue to graze on the land as a result of the Lightsource Grazing Policy recently put in place; emphasising the developer’s commitment to the integration of solar technology into the farming community.
Although the site is already very well-screened, Lightsource will be putting in additional planting where there are any gaps in the existing hedgerow. Additionally, although no flood risk was identified, a sustainable drainage system will be developed just in case any such issues were to arise in the future. This is standard practice for Lightsource taking into account the tenancy duration of 25 years.
The Palfreys Barton Farm site progressed through the planning process relatively smoothly. During the pre-planning stage, Lightsource wrote to all households within 1km of the farm outlining its proposals. Only one response was received by the developer and this was in support of the new solar farm. Construction of the new solar farm has just started and — weather permitting — it is hoped the site will be completed by the end of March 2013.
More information and free educational resource on solar power and climate change can also be found at www.lightsource-re.co.uk