We went to find out!
In November, 30 villagers from Deddington and Duns Tew visited our local solar farm, Hill Farm, in Duns Tew, to learn from the landowner and the developer about the current farm and plans for its extension.
So what is the data about solar farm land use? Currently, solar farms take up 0.08% of the land in the UK. Government plans for 2035 see that growing to 0.3% of the land. Golf courses currently take up 2% of our land.
And how much energy can we get from the 1.6% of arable that is devoted to energy crops?
Here’s a comparison: an acre of land used to generate electricity with solar panels would enable you to drive between 50 and 110 times further than an acre growing crops for bio fuels. (Up to 10% of the fuel in your petrol/diesel car is bio fuel).
The existing scheme was built in 2016 following an historic decision that saw Cherwell councillors unanimously override the advice of their planning officers who warned that the “expanse of dark coloured panels” would appear as “a wholly alien and obtrusive urbanised feature within the landscape”.The councillors took more notice our of own Christopher Hall who made a powerful contribution to the planning debate concluding as follows: “I declare no interest in this proposal, except the interest of every person here, which is the well-being of my grandchildren and yours. Over the next 25 years our grandchildren will not hold it against you for voting today for this low-lying solar farm which a small minority will see. Instead they will be proud that their grandparents had the courage and foresight to take a decision to provide them with clean and secure energy for many years to come, helping to make sure that they inherit what we have inherited: this life-giving planet. As the well-known maxim has it: Think globally, act locally.”
So the scheme went ahead comprising 20,000 panels build on 27 acres of land, generating 5 MW of electricity, enough to power over 1,500 homes. Planning permission has been granted for an extension that will see an additional 8 MW added to the scheme. The developer hopes that work will start on this within a year. At the time of the initial 5 MW proposal, the Cherwell lead for planning said “.. we do accept this is a large development..”. His colleagues across the County might have to recalibrate their sense of scale as they contemplate the new West Botley scheme, intended to be a little larger at 840 MW…
Many thanks to Mr Charles Landless, Landowner, and Ed Jessamine, Developer, for showing us around.