Construction will soon begin at the Fylde solar farm in Lancashire. Toyota Solar Array under construction at Burnaston, UK. Photo: Toyota UK via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
Solar farm approved at rejected fracking site
Ben Lucas / DeSmog.uk
11th September 2015
A stones throw from where Cuadrilla lost its bid to develop a fracking operation in Lancashire, a solar farm has just won planning permission with widespread local support, writes Ben Lucas. However a 194-turbine offshore wind farm near the Isle of Wight has been refused planning consent.
As well as providing green energy, the solar plans will enhance biodiversity - unlike those of Cuadrilla, which are set to destroy natural habitats, threaten public health, destroy our agriculture and tourism, and contribute to global warming.
Anti-Fracking campaigners in Lancashire have welcomed a local council's decision to approve the development of a solar farm - just across the way from the Preston New Road site where Cuadrilla has spent years trying to get permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing.
The solar farm is expected to produce enough electricity to power around 1,300 homes and save approximately 2,310 tonnes of carbon emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 513 large family cars off the road.
Fylde Council unanimously approved the application for the Staining Wood solar farm subject to the completion of a habitat regulation assessment, which it looks likely to pass. The site is expected to be operational by March 2016.
Members of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) who visited the site prior to the planning meeting were impressed with the plans for the site.
LightSource, the company that intends to develop the solar farm, intends to give the land area dual use - allowing sheep to graze on the solar farm, as well as creating "enhanced habitat corridors" and planting new trees in order to increase biodiversity.
Local support for renewable energy
Commenting on the council's decision, a spokesperson for RAFF said: "RAFF has consistently promoted green energy as an alternative to developing shale gas in Lancashire.
"As well as providing green energy, the plans for this site will enhance the biodiversity of our area, unlike those of Cuadrilla, which are set to destroy natural habitats, pose a threat to public health, destroy our agricultural and tourism industries, and contribute to global warming."
The council said that it has seen an increase in these types of applications over the last year and they are proving to be popular with local residents. "We are finding that across the borough people are more supportive of this type of renewable energy generation", observed Matthew Taylor, Fylde Council's Senior Development Officer.
He added that the area is well suited for solar farms given the area's good connectivity to the national grid, flat land and higher than average levels of sunlight.
This news comes as the government has announced it intends to drastically cut financial support for solar energy generation in the UK, despite Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd's promise to "unleash a new solar revolution" in Britain following her re-election as an MP last May.
Most recently Panasonic, one of the world's largest electronics companies and a major supplier of solar panels in Britain, urged the government to rethink its proposals that could cause "substantial" and "irreversible" damage to the industry.
'Missed opportunity' as offshore wind farm is refused
But the news on offshore wind is less rosy. Energy Minister Lord Bourne has just refused planning approval for the 194 turbine, 970MW Navitus Bay offshore wind farm planned for the English Channel 13.4 miles off the coast from Bournemouth and 10.9 miles from the western tip of the Isle of Wight.
The main reasons given in the decision letter concerned the views out to sea from land, including the Dorset Heritage Coast, and possible harm to tourism. Lord Bourne concluded it would lead to "significant adverse impact on the perception of viewers standing on the coastlines".
The only recourse for the developer, Navitus Bay, is to apply for a judicial review of the decision, however this would require them to show that the decision was either irrational or unlawful. Project Director Stuart Grant said: "We will now discuss the options available with our shareholders and update stakeholders in due course."
RenewableUK's Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, described the decision as "deeply disappointing" and a "missed opportunity ... it means we're failing to capitalise on the UK's superb offshore wind resource and the economic benefits it brings.
"Years of hard work and significant investment went into developing this project which could have added £1.6 billion to the economy of the region and created up to 1,700 jobs - it's most unfortunate that that has now been lost."
In June Amber Rudd told RenewableUK's offshore wind conference: "You represent one of the 21st century industrial success stories. You - we - are world leaders. Pioneers. Innovators. The best business minds working with the best engineers, within one of the world's strongest policy and financial frameworks.
"And working together we now have the most operational offshore wind here in UK waters than anywhere else in the world. And that is where 21st century industrial Britain should be - leading the world. As our friends over at the Department for Business would say - Britain is Great!"
Views versus climate change?
Friends of the Earth south west Campaigner Mike Birkin said: "It's astonishing that a major clean energy scheme has been rejected on the grounds that it may harm the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
"The Jurassic Coast is not designated for its scenic value, and it is hard to see how the sight of wind turbines on the horizon on a clear day could be considered damaging to it.
"The real threats to Dorset's fragile coast come from climate change - and potentially oil and gas exploitation. Navitus Bay, which could have been the largest clean energy project in the south of England, would have played a key role in helping to counter this.
"Yet again the UK is turning its back on a major clean energy project that would have created hundreds of jobs, boosted the local economy and helped the nation to tackle climate change."
Ben Lucas is a writer for DeSmog.uk while also pursuing an Investigative Journalism Master's degree at the City University of London. He has a particular interest in UK and international politics, economics and environmental issues.
This article was originally published by DeSmog.uk and has been extended by The Ecologist with additional material about offshore wind.
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