Planners give the nod to community solar farm in Plymouth

Plymouth Energy Community says the project will provide enough renewable power for 3,800 homes and save 3.330 tonnes of carbon a year

Plymouth Energy Community, working with Plymouth City Council, has secured planning consent for a 13mW community solar farm in Plymouth.

A grid connection has already been secured and it is hoped the solar farm, based on a former landfill site east of the city at Chelson Meadow, will be operational in 2023.

Communities for Renewables CIC managed the feasibility process for the project with funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund, and is providing ongoing commercial support with procurement of construction contractors and financing.

The proposal is for 33,000 panels covering approximately 17.8 hectares, which is expected to produce 14,284 MWh of renewable energy each year, enough to power around 3,800 homes.

It hopes to save 3,330 tonnes of carbon a year, create nine full-time jobs and a 25% improvement in local biodiversity. This will be delivered by “improving the existing habitats across an area in excess of 37 hectares – this includes a further 20 hectares beyond the footprint of the solar farm itself”.

This includes long-term management actions to improve the condition of the existing grassland, ‘open mosaic’ and woodland habitats across this site plus other improvements such as bird and bat boxes, homes for reptiles and the introduction of beehives.

Plymouth Energy Community says the project is “a major part of the city’s response to the climate emergency”, and will make a substantial contribution to Plymouth’s ambition to get to carbon neutral emissions.

Surplus funds generated will go to other local community projects that are responding to climate change and fuel poverty, it adds – adding up to an expected £3.5m over 30 years. It will also “put local people in control over a key part of the city’s transition to carbon neutral emissions”.

Plymouth Energy Community says it has completed a landscape and visual impact assessment in its planning application. “As the solar farm has been designed to only occupy the low lying northern sector of Chelson Meadow, it will only be visible from a few restricted locations. Planting vegetation in the area will also help to screen it.”