A solar farm has been approved a couple of fields down from us. It was, of course, controversial.
Photovoltaic energy is not yet hugely efficient, and its inefficiency is why the government has pulled the plug, so to speak, on subsidies (although it is still subsidized). However, it’s necessary if we are to keep guzzling electricity. As well as domestic-scale projects, we will need large areas covered by solar panels. Ideally these would be roofs of large buildings, such as factories and warehouses. I’d like to see the south-facing side of every church roof covered in panels (and I mean covered – a few panels on a roof looks horrid). Less ideally, some land will have to be, and is, given over to solar panels.
We must be sensible in sacrificing land for panellage: let’s not use arable land, and let’s limit the size of each solar farm – and the size of the companies in charge of them.
This project, the Berwick Solar Farm, seems to me to be sensible. It’s a 70 acre site of poor-to-average farm land. This will remain farm land during the 27-year life of the Solar Farm, and there will be sheep wandering amidst the panels. It’s overlooked by only three houses – hard luck on them, but this is relatively low-impact. Some complained that the Farm would be seen from the South Downs, but that’s only likely if you actively look for it. Others said it would be seen from the road – doubtful: the hedges will be 2 metres, and no double-decker bus passes this way! (The existing pylons can definitely be seen from both the Downs and the road.)
One of the best things about this Solar Farm is the companies behind it. The provider, a small firm called Susenco, doesn’t want to expand, and its raison d’etre is small/ medium-scale and community energy. They’ve wangled from their investor, Low Carbon, a quarter of the site to be owned – if we can do it – by a local, specially established, company. This will be funded and run in the same way as projects in Lewes and Oxford. That’s to say, it’s a share-held, but shares can’t be traded for quick profits. (Why didn’t they do that with Royal Mail?!)
I hope this all comes off: I feel that this is the right way to go. It would be nice if big, profit-making corporations were to have had their day.