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How much is 85 hectares of arable land?

The EDF Renewables Tye Lane Solar Power Plant is proposed to be built on 85 hectares of arable land. But what is 85 hectares?

Why say 85 hectares?

A common tactic used by developers is to make the numbers as low as possible, and the size as incomprehensible as possible. This is to make the scale of it difficult to grasp so people think it’s smaller than it actually is. Another thing EDF have done throughout their application is to quote different sizes. Some places say 82ha, some 84ha, and some 85ha. During their pre-application public consultation they told the public 65ha! Since the BMSDC Application Form states 85ha we are going to use that. So let’s bring a little bit of clarity to what 85 hectares is really…

85 hectares is the same as…

85 hectares is the same as 210 acres, or 849,840 square metres.

Ipswich Town’s football pitch at Portman Road is 102m x 75m. So 85 hectares is also the same as 111 of Ipswich Town’s football pitches.

A doubles tennis court (the outer white lines) is 23.77 metres x 10.97 metres. So 85 hectares is also the same 3259 Wimbledon Doubles Tennis Courts.

If we look at some other comparisons…

Bramford Meadows is 38 acres. So EDF’s solar site is more than 5 and half times larger!

Christchurch Park is 82 acres. So EDF’s solar site is 2.5 times larger.

Chantry Park, the largest in Ipswich, is 124 acres. So EDF is 1.69 times larger.

The La Doria warehouse building near Sproughton on the Eastern Gateway industrial park (the one that looks like a giant sugarcube) has a ground footprint of 6 acres. EDF is 35 times larger!

All industrial estates in Ipswich are smaller than EDF. The only area larger in Ipswich is Ransomes Industrial Estate and Europark, which is around 298 acres.

How much food could be produced on 85ha of arable farm land?

If the EDF Renewables Tye Lane Solar Power Plant gets built we aren’t losing football pitches and tennis courts. We are losing food producing agricultural land (and a lot of other things but that’s for a different time). Specifically arable crops of wheat and barley (and occasionally oilseed rape and sugar beet).

According to 2019 UK Government Statistics, 1ha of arable land produces 8.9 tonnes of wheat. 85ha = 756.5 tonnes of wheat. Assuming it is clean grain and a generous loss of 5% moisture during the milling process, this is 718,675 1kg bags of wholemeal flour PER YEAR! Over 37 years (35 years of operation plus a season either side for construction and decommissioning), this is 26,590,975 bags of wholemeal flour.

flour with smiling face on parquet flooring
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

According to 2019 UK Government Statistics, 1ha of arable land produces 6.9 tonnes of barley. 85ha = 586.5 tonnes of barley. 586.5 tonnes of barley produces 451 tonnes of malt. 451 tonnes of malt produces 24,355 barrels of beer. 24,355 barrels of beer produces 3,985,487 litres of beer or 7,014,403 pints of beer PER YEAR! Over 37 years, this is 259,532,911 pints of beer.

In 2019 the UK Government figures showed that the UK was only 61% self-sufficient, but that we produced 42% more electricity than we used during peak demand. Surely reducing the food producing land and replacing it with even more electricity is absurd?

How much fencing will there be?

EDF Renewables propose to erect fencing around the entire perimeter of the site, including along the edge of public footpaths. In some places they propose hedging to screen the solar panels, which would take around 10 years to mature enough to provide screening during the summer months. In some places, they propose no hedging, and in winter the hedges would provide little screening anyway.

According to the application documents standard wooden fence posts will be 2.85m tall (this includes the bit below ground) and placed every 2.9m along the boundary. And based on a standard 1/3 post hole depth, the CCTV wooden fence posts would be 4m tall every 50m along the boundary.

Using the measuring feature on Google Earth, we estimate fencing of 8,035 metres. That is just shy of 5 miles of fencing.

This means there will be 2,595 standard fence posts, and 160 CCTV fence posts. How many trees will need to be cut down to satisfy these numbers?

green trees
Photo by Pille Kirsi on

How many solar panels will there be?

Unless you’ve been to a solar farm and stood next to a solar panel, it is hard to imaging the scale of them.

EDF Renewables states in the application documents that the highest edge of the panels will be 2.5m high. The lowest edge 0.9m. The panels will be tilted at an angle of 20 degrees and fixed in place. They are not moving panels like the Enso Energy proposal. There will be 114,000 panels.

How many containers from China is this?

If we look at figure 6.1 in their application it is of a “typical solar panel” and shows a technical drawing by JA Solar. (This is one of a handful of solar panel companies that has been in the news recently).

To ship these panels from China, 620 panels will fit into one 40ft container. To ship all 114,000 panels that is 184 containers. Equally at 34 panels per pallet this is 3,678 pallets (i.e. more trees). Along with all the CO2 emissions to transport them from the factory, to the departure port, across the globe to Felixstowe port, and to site.

This is just the panels. There are also large amounts of aggregate needed, the fencing, cables, inverters, site storage and welfare cabins, construction vehicles, and construction workers.

What size are the panels?

If we go back to the same figure 6.1, it shows the size of the panels to be 2279mm x 1134mm x 35mm. If the average man in the UK is 175cm tall, and the average UK woman 161cm tall, these are far taller.

If we were to stand all 114,000 of the panels on their side, and stand them up next to each other back to back, they would stretch across 3,990 metres. The Eiffel Tower is only 324m tall!

Alternatively, if you were to lay the panels on the ground end to end, this would be 161 miles. You could walk from Felixstowe to Birmingham (following the A14 and M6) without touching the ground!

3 thoughts on “How much is 85 hectares of arable land?”

  1. Great illustration of the size of the area. Unfortunately, last night in a webinar the developer admitted that the figures were wrong, the 65 hectares should actually be 82!! Sadly, it just seems to confirm that their figures are “massaged” and makes me wonder if I can trust the information we are given? We need more renewable energy and we need it fast., but we still need to care for our environment and make sure that we can grow food in the future.

    1. Yes this is correct. They were caught in the headlights so to speak and it is 82 hectares. The page and calculations within it have now been updated to reflect this increase.

  2. Pingback: The Food vs Electricity Imbalance – CARE Suffolk

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