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Petition to Protect Prime Farmland from Solar Industrialisation

Solar panels belong on rooftops before prime agricultural farmland.

We’re yet to meet anyone who doesn’t agree with this. Other than large scale solar developers.

Yet the reality is that communities across the UK are facing the desecration of their local countryside by large scale solar developers, who prefer the profit margins of installing solar panels on large swathes of good quality farmland.

Many of these communities already host large energy infrastructure near them, and are facing losing even more. They just want to protect what is left. Some communities face losing what may as well be all of it. The burden of a net zero energy future belongs equally on all of us, not unequally on a few as is currently happening.

The UK currently produces about 64% of the volume of food it consumes. This means we import 36%. Climate change is expected to reduce the amount of food that can be produced on the same area of land, so our reliance on other countries will grow. The EU are currently squabbling and blocking trade of vaccinations. How will they behave when food shortages start happening?

Solar panels are around 12% efficient in the UK. This means they only generate electricity around 12% of the year. Think of it this way. If 100 houses were built, and 88 of them remained empty forever there would be outrage at how inappropriate it is.

When energy production is concentrated in large scale facilities it contributes to energy waste. Processing the larger voltages of energy in order to transmit it around the country wastes around 1.5%. Plus more is lost the further it needs to travel along the cables. It is like a bucket of water with a hole in bottom. But if the same solar panels were distributed over rooftops and the buildings used the energy generated the loss is reduced to almost nothing, plugging the hole in the bucket.

Solar panels on rooftops is viable. It can be done because it is still being done. Just at smaller profit margins. In 2016 the BRE estimated that there were half a million acres of rooftops suitable for solar panels. Infuriatingly, buildings continue to be built at a rapid pace without solar panels. Land isn’t being made anymore and we are an island country. We need to use our land space wisely.

CARE Suffolk has joined up with several other communities in the UK facing the prospect of losing prime farmland and countryside to solar panels. We are asking the UK government to protect our farmland while also pushing for solar panels to be put on rooftops first. If you feel this is a reasonable request, please sign the petition now.

2 thoughts on “Petition to Protect Prime Farmland from Solar Industrialisation”

  1. I agree that there is a great need to protect best and most versatile farmland from energy industrialisation. My sense is that the argument for a more distributed a approach to the installation of solar should be supported not only by argument around system losses in the electricity distribution grids (the water bucket analogy), but also linked to the amenity impact that solar associated transmission assets that it brings with it. Amenity impacts whether from the visual intrusion of the solar panels themselves or from the associated connection and transmission assets bring detriments to wellbeing which in turn reveals themselves in socioeconomic costs to health and social care systems. The natural beauty of the countryside is a valuable asset but so are other aspects of the way we use farmland. It is not clear what impact large scale solar installations have on the drainage of large tracts of agricultural land, particularly at a time where climate change seems to tend to lead to more extreme rainfall events. Nor have I seen assessments of the impact of large arrays of solar panels shading the ground and removing large amounts of water and air metabolising biomass from the local ecosystem. There are therefore more reasons to adopt a precautionary and moderating approach to the coverage of large areas of biologically productive land with solar panels than the reasons stated this petition and I am therefore glad to have the opportunity to sign it.

    1. Thank you for such a comprehensive comment David. A lot of what you have said here is true. The importance of the natural environment on health and wellbeing has been widely studied and documented. Until recently though the link was almost ignored. The pandemic has made it painfully obvious. The socioeconomic impacts of removing large swathes of countryside from public amenity is becoming more and more obvious. To some at least.

      There is one well known study of the impact of solar farms on rainfall and drainage (not with favourable results for the local communities burdened with solar farms). And another study about the heat island effect of them too. And another recent analysis about covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels predicted a worrying turn of events on a global scale. Sadly, most studies look at large scale solar in isolation. There are no studies to analyse the cumulative impact of all these solar “farms” on the ecosystem. What is the cumulative impact on rainfall and drainage systems? What is the cumulative impact of all these mini heat islands? What is the cumulative impact on biodiversity?

      We could easily go on asking questions. Sadly petitions only allow so much space for you to write. Thank you for signing it.

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