Plans have been submitted for a brand new community-owned solar farm in Plymouth, which could power almost 4,000 homes a year.
After launching the scheme this summer and undertaking extensive community consultation, Plymouth City Council and local charity Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) have submitted a joint planning application to develop a new community solar farm of approximately 13 MWh at the former Chelson Meadow landfill site. .
Aiming to generate enough energy to power 3,800 homes annually, developers said the opportunity would significantly increase the city’s renewable energy capacity, improving national and local access to clean energy.
Learn more – Plymouth’s former landfill in Chelson Meadow takes on new life as a solar farm
The scheme is the size of 24 football pitches and will cover Chelson Meadow in a bid to curb the effects of climate change.
Alistair Macpherson, Chief Executive of Plymouth Energy Community, said: “We are proud to present a proposal with Plymouth City Council which will provide arguably the largest opportunity for renewable energy generation available in our city.
Cllr Maddi Bridgeman, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Street Scene, said: ‘It’s great to see this project come to planning. The team worked hard to develop a friendly approach based on lots of evidence. If planning is approved, we have the opportunity here to show best practice in partnership by working to deliver several important programs for Plymouth and its residents.
This type of initiative aims to bring Plymouth closer to its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030; do our part in the fight against climate change and chart a better path to a sustainable future. Being community owned means that all profits are kept locally.
Further details with the application indicate that the generation capacity is estimated at around 13 MW from an area of around 18 ha of solar panels, although the installed capacity depends on the technology available at the time of construction.
The construction of the solar farm is expected to take place at the end of summer 2022 and will last approximately four months. Once installed, the solar park will operate for a period of 30 years.
Once the operational life of the solar farm is over, it will be possible to remove the panels and above-ground infrastructure and return the site to another use. Any footings or underground cables can either be secured and left in place or removed, whichever is most appropriate for the environment.
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The planning statement ends by saying: “The development proposal is strongly supported by the urgent need to tackle climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of renewables, as outlined by the UK statement and of a climate emergency and the commitment to make Plymouth carbon neutral by 2030 (i.e. within eight years of this request).
“The proposal would not conflict with achieving the objectives of Saltram Country Park and has the potential to enhance the value of green space by conserving biodiversity and facilitating greater accessibility to the site and network of trails around Saltram Park and Registered Gardens. .
“The proposed development would be temporary in nature and has been designed in such a way that it can most easily be resolved at the end of its operational life. While in operation, the project would ensure the management of a large area of land for biodiversity benefits, both within the network and on adjacent lands.
“The Project would cause less than substantial (low end) damage to a heritage asset, and this damage is outweighed by the substantial benefits that renewable energy development would bring, and the Project would have a significant beneficial effect on biodiversity.”
As part of the process, PEC shared information with the local community and stakeholders for feedback, which helped shape the submitted design.
This includes detailed plans to achieve measurable improvements for wildlife as well as the significant carbon savings of the project.
The project is carried out with the support of the Rural Community Energy Fund, which is administered by the SW Energy Hub.
Jon Rattenbury, Program Manager for the South West Energy Hub, said, “I am delighted that we are able to support PEC’s Chelson Meadow Solar Project through the Rural Community Energy Fund program.
“This is a great example of what community energy groups can achieve both in terms of decarbonization and to benefit host communities through the reinvestment of revenues into local projects.
“We strongly encourage other community groups to keep an eye out for future government funding opportunities to help get their local energy projects off the ground.”
PEC will host another informational event on Tuesday, March 1 for those who want to learn more and ask questions. You can find out more about the project here: www.plymouthenergycommunity.com/our-work/chelson-meadow.
Plymouth Energy Community has already installed a community-owned solar panel in Ernesettle, saved over £800,000 for local schools and community organizations through rooftop solar and reinvested excess profits into projects that help Plymouth residents to reduce their energy bills and make homes more energy efficient.