Firm starts plans for 28 hectare solar farm in Berwick

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Plans to build a second solar park in east Sussex are underway as another energy firm looks to move into the area.

Susenco –the Sustainable Energy Company – has announced plans for a 28 hectare solar farm at Batbrooks Farm, Berwick

The plans are to install solar panels on the land for the next 27 years, with the site returned to its full agricultural use after that time.

The panels will stand less than three metres high, have no moving parts, emit no sound, and are benign, said a Sunsenco spokesman.

The firm is set to hold a public consultation on the plans later this year.

The first stage of the planning process will see the proposals investigated by Wealden District Council (WDC) to determine if the site should be subjected to an environmental assessment.

The proposals follow plans for a similar scheme at nearby Wilbees Farm, Arlington, by Hive Energy Ltd.

That project to create a 23 hectare solar park was found to require an environmental assessment by WDC last December.

Neil Mather, CEO of Susenco Ltd, said the country was entering a time of very hard choices when energy would get more expensive while dealing with emissions which cause dangerous climate change.

He said: “The UK has a binding target to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The Government is announcing new nuclear power and new gas fired power stations, just as gas prices rise for all of us.

“On the other hand, solar has become very much part of our landscape with a number of solar farms, and millions of people having solar panels on their roofs.

“A solar farm is more efficient than putting panels on roofs because they can be oriented to capture the sun, and its more cost effective to do a large space in one go. This scheme will generate the equivalent power of 6,000 solar roofs.”

Dr Mark Hinnells, solutions director of Susenco said the site was chosen due to the farmer keeping his hedges in good condition and so the panels would largely be hidden.

He said: “From sensitive viewpoints like the South Downs, the site is well screened by Ludlay Coppice, but even when you do see it, at a distance of five kilometres,it will appear as a patch of blue, just as if there were a second lake or reservoir close to Arlington Reservoir.”

To view the proposals visit WDC’s planning website entering the planning number WD/2013/6506/SO

Peta Donkin, environmental planner from Pegasus Group, said the existing sheep grazing would be retained on the site if the solar panels on the site scheme goes ahead.

Mrs Donkin said: “There are also environmental improvements that will be generated. As well as retaining the existing hedges the scheme will enhance wildlife foraging in the field margins through landscape improvement measures.

“Native species will be planted as part of the scheme, and bat boxes and perching posts provided for raptors (hunting birds). Respecting and indeed enhancing existing public access is important, and we aim to include an outdoor classroom and information boards so we can teach our children about the importance of renewables.

She added: “When we hear back from the Council with their Screening opinion we will consider their views, and in the next few months we will hold a public consultation so that people can have their say.”

The scheme would save around 214,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime, contributing to UK renewable energy and climate change targets, said a Susenco spokesman.

The request for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening and Scoping opinion has been lodged at Wealden District Council, WD/2013/6506/SO, dated March 14 2013.

Recent decisions by Secretary of State Eric Pickles on solar farms indicate that meeting targets for renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions accord with the Government’s aims concerning climate change.