Green light for Dorset solar farm
Planning permission for a renewable energy scheme comprising 40MW solar farm with battery storage capacity near Blandford Forum has been granted with conditions by Dorset Council.
Consultants Pegasus Group secured the approval on behalf of Voltalia UK, a global power producer and service provider in renewable electricity production from solar, wind, hydro, biomass energies and also energy storage technology.
The application, at South Farm, was for the installation of a renewable led energy scheme comprising ground mounted photovoltaic solar arrays and battery-based electricity storage units.
Through its commitment to making improvement to the local community, Voltalia UK has incorporated a permissive footpath within the scheme, which will join up two local public rights of way and will manage hedgerows and field margins to provide a net gain in biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
The project was well received by the local parish council and the application was actively supported by the National Farmers Union (NFU) who said that it would help deliver viable and profitable farming to the area.
Simon Holt from Voltalia UK said: “We are pleased to have reached this milestone for an important renewable energy generation project, with a lot of support from the local community. The scheme will directly contribute to reducing reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity in Dorset and the South West in general.
“We have demonstrated that large-scale projects can be sensitively sited within the countryside and need-not have unacceptable environmental impacts. The South Farm project will not rely on customer subsidies to deliver clean electricity which makes an important step in the next generation of clean energy projects of this type.
“As we move forwards into the implementation phase this year, we will be looking for local partners in Dorset to work with us to deliver this scheme and other UK projects.”
And Colin Virtue, from Pegasus Group’s Bristol office, added: “We are extremely pleased that this application to diversify has been approved, providing South Farm with a secure reliable income stream.
“Dorset Council declared a Climate Emergency in May 2019, and this project will make a valuable contribution to the generation of renewable and low carbon electricity at a local level.
“Our experienced team worked closely with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) in order to put together a well-considered proposal based on sound environmental and sustainable developments consideration.”
Councillor Ray Bryan, chairman of Dorset Council’s Climate Change and Ecological Emergency Executive Advisory Panel, said: “Dorset Council is currently developing its strategy and action plan for tackling climate change, and we know that the increased generation of clean renewable energy will play a vital part in this. We aim to work in partnership with many more businesses and organisations in the future to achieve our ambition of helping Dorset communities become carbon-neutral as quickly as possible.”
The approved solar park will generate clean, renewable energy for the equivalent of around 10,605 homes a year. The development will export renewable energy to the grid for a minimum of 35 years, after which it will be decommissioned if further planning consent is not applied for or granted.
Livestock will continue to graze the land around and under the solar panels, and although crops won’t be grown on the land while the solar park is operational, they will in the future. The extended fallow period is likely to be of benefit to the soil quality and improve biodiversity on site.
Pegasus Group is a national consultancy with 14 offices across UK and Ireland offering extensive experience across all sectors of the development industry including planning, design, environment, economics and heritage.