Wednesday, November 18, 2015

News: Rotherham solar farm set for planning approval

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Plans for a 5MW solar energy project on the site of a wind farm in Rotherham are being recommended for approval.

Banks Renewables is looking to install the scheme at its Penny Hill wind farm site, to the south east of Rotherham and west of the junction of the M1 and M18.

The Durham-based developer secured planning permission for the six turbine wind farm at Ulley in 2010. Backed by £21m from the Co-operative Bank, turbines with a maximum height of 132m were built on green belt land.

Approximately six hectares of current agricultural land in the south east corner of its Penny Hill wind farm site would be covered by solar panels, up to three metres in height. If approved, the installed capacity of up to 5MW would provide enough electricity for approximately 1,320 homes.

Approximately 18,280 panels would be installed rated at 270W with the lower edge around one metre above ground level enabling safe grazing by smaller livestock. It is set to use the existing grid connection on the Penny Hill site.

The planning application is set to be discussed by councillors this week and approval would be for a temporary period of 23 years, the same length of time that the wind turbines are set to be in operation.

Objections have been raised on the loss of agricultural land and the impact on the green belt and Ulley conservation area.

Planning officers at Rotherham Council are recommending that the plans be approved, with a number of conditions.

A report to the planning board concludes that even though the extent of the benefits in this instance is limited to the provision of renewable energy, this does constitute very special circumstances for development in the green belt.

The report adds: "The development would have limited harm upon the openness of the green belt, by reason of encroachment, as a result of the fields proposed being well screened as existing, together with enhanced screening measures proposed. There would also be limited other harm, with the development having minor visual impact upon the immediate and wider landscape."

Conditions include giving the applicants five years instead of the usual three to develop the plans. This is due to changes to the Government subsidy regime announced since submission of the application that could affect the financial viability of future solar energy projects.

Banks Renewables website

Images: Banks Renewables

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