Plan to establish giant solar farm in South Downs National Park near Lewes

Solar farm at Oving in West Sussex
Solar farm at Oving in West Sussex

Plans have been put forward for a massive solar farm between Lewes and Ringmer.

It would cover an area of farmland roughly half the size of the village.

The proposal to harvest the sun instead of crops centres on Upper Stoneham Farm, midway between the two communities.

Cambridge-based Vogt Solar UK is considering the installation of a 15MWp solar farm that would cover the site with more than 3,000 arrays (racks) supporting almost 76,500 photovaltaic panels.

Although there are slight differences between models, photovoltaic (PV) panels measure approximately 3-3.2m (10.4ft) in length and are 1m (3.2ft) wide.

The proposed scheme would cover approximately 24 hectares between the A26 and B2192 roads. Extending over several fields, it would be approximately 875m - roughly half-a-mile - across from east to west at its widest point.

It would generate enough electricity to power approximately 4,500 homes.

Two public consultation events are to be held, giving local residents the chance to find out more and have their say. These will be at Lewes Town Hall on Monday, April 29 (3-8pm) and at Ringmer Village Hall on Wednesday, May 8 (3-8pm).

A spokesperson for Vogt Solar UK said: “Feedback from attendees at these meetings, and other relevant stakeholders, will be taken into consideration before submission of any planning application to the South Downs National Park Authority.

“We look forward to working with the local community to realise the benefits of this safe, clean, renewable energy project.”

Members of the company’s planning and technical teams will be on hand at both events to answer questions.

Each panel would be angled towards the sun and would be no more than 2.15m (7ft) high, as measured from ground level to the top of the back of the array.

The point of connection to the National Grid would be via the existing electricity sub-station to the south-west of the proposed arrays.

Zones containing arrays would require a 2m (6.5ft) high security fence extending approximately 3,513m (2.1 miles) around the perimeter.

No on-site staff would be required to operate the solar farm and no staff offices or maintenance buildings would be needed within or near to the site.

The ground beneath the arrays would be seeded with a grass mix, including wild flowers, in strategic locations and then maintained by sheep grazing. This would also mean it would be relatively straightforward to remove the arrays at the end of the life of the solar farm.

It is proposed that it would be on the land for a period of 25 years, after which the arrays would be removed and the fields returned to their former condition.

Currently, the land at Upper Stoneham Farm on which the solar farm would be located is used to grow arable crops.