EHDC have received a planning application for a 32.7 acre PV installation off Day Lane in Lovedean. For those not familiar with the area, this is accessed via Catherington Lane Behind the Bird In Hand public house.
The application has been made by Light Source Renewable Energy Ltd, and (if approved) would provide enough power to supply 1661 homes with ‘green energy’, generating 5.76MW of power. The application was received 2nd Oct 2012 and is to be decided by 1st Jan 2013.
This will be an interesting application to watch as there will be two firm groups that emerge.
The NIBMY’s (Not In My Back Yard) – v – The Staunch Environmentalists.
The PV farm will be visible from nearby roads, and has a right of way along side it. There are houses immediately adjacent, and the photomontage shows it will be securely fenced with a large framework of PV panels. On the other hand, fossil fuels have a finite life, are polluting the environment, and we do need to use greener forms of energy.
What are the economics of this?
If you put 8 solar panels measuring 2m x 1m on your roof, you will generate most of the electricity you need to power your home. More importantly you will get a rebate from the government called a ‘feed in tariff’ so instead of purchasing electricity, you get paid to produce it. This means that the cost of the installations generally pay for themselves, perhaps over a 5 to 7 year period. In year 8, you are generally ahead, and with a life span of 25 years for the panels, have a further 18 years free power plus the benefit of the feed in tariff.
If, however, you are a large organisation who can buy several thousand panels at a far better price (compared to your 8) and install them at ground level (cheaper than climbing about on the roof) and connect them all together, then you can install a very much more cost-effective installation. The feed in tariff rate has, however, been changing. Over the last 18 months the government has been reviewing the Feed In Tariff rates for domestic and commercial applications, and as the panels and technology become cheaper, the rebate you earn is being reduced. Currently the commercial rate is expected to reduce to 7.1p per KWH from 1st November this year. This will generate £408 per hour in government subsidy for this particular development when the sun shines, plus the value of the electricity. Very big business. (The feed in tariff rate is guaranteed for 25 years)
Clearly this is being done for commercial gain, and while this is fine, we must be sure this is for the right reason in our community. I work in construction for my ‘Real Job’ and yes, PV is an important way to generate power. I have installed it on 3 buildings now. It does however need to be applied in the right areas, and this is where the installation is sympathetic. Installed at ground level these will always be seen, and are not elegant or attractive structures. It is impossible to screen them with hedging as this also blocks out the sun. The neighbouring properties will be affected and suffer a possible reduction in value. Some of them will possible be affected by light reflecting off the panels.
Personally I think farmland should remain as farmland. I would be worried about this site being converted to ‘Light Industrial’ in 25 years time based on its change of use now. I do however believe that PV should be installed, but think the right location for this are land we have already built on, and locations such as the roofs of ASDA, B+Q, Tesco, Cash & Carry structures and industrial buildings with flat roofs where these can be installed without being visible from ground level are really the best uses of land, and funnily enough, keep the power being generated next to industrial and populated areas where the cost to distribute and sell it are also very economical.
I will be interested to see the outcome of this.
There is a public meeting where you can find out more. Monday 5th November, 6:30 Jubilee Hall, Crouch Lane, Horndean.
Details of the application can be found here: http://planningpublicaccess.easthants.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=_EHANT_DCAPR_228504
More information on feed In Tarrif rates for commercial purposed can be found here: http://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/commercial-feed-tariff