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Solar Power Plant FAQs

Isn’t this better than turning fields over to housing?

This is not the choice – there is no prospect of converting this land to housing anyway or changing its designation as “agricultural”. These fields are not zoned for housing now or in the future under the emerging Joint Local Plan. The solar schemes avoid this because the land will “go back” to agriculture after 40 years. (Although once in place they can submit a planning application at the end of the 40 years to continue). You can’t make the promise of turning back housing. So it’s a straight choice between countryside and electricity, food or power. For four decades.

Energy and climate change are a worry – is this land really needed for food?

Yes. The UK head of Morrisons has said we need to build up UK food production post Brexit. We import 45% of all our food and need to grow more locally in order to reduce carbon emissions from food trade. The land Enso will take up is prime farmland (even their own soil survey says this), it could produce 882 tonnes of wheat in any one year. This is the equivalent of 882,000 1kg bags of wholegrain flour. It’s why we say flour not power!

We need more energy, isn’t this a planet friendly way to provide it?

Renewable energy is critical for the future. But turning over food producing land is a very inefficient way of providing it, especially to solar. Put solar panels on roofing, carparks and industrial sites! Our North Sea wind farms work every day and night and will power 4 million homes. The Enso scheme relies on sunshine and daylight, often in short supply.  It could in theory supply 13,000 homes. So what Enso will supply is miniscule compared to the land area it will take –  and as the East Anglian grid has overcapacity so – get this – when the solar schemes supply the grid then other energy sources such as the North Sea wind farms would need to be ”turned off” to allow the grid to take it, or the electricity is “dumped” into the ground.

It’s only a few hundred acres, that’s not a lot is it?

There is a second proposal coming from EDF in Bramford Tye for 202 acres. Local farmers around the Bramford sub station near Burstall are already receiving offers to turn their land over for yet more schemes. This is the thin end of the wedge. Soon our whole area could be a giant fenced-in industrial park, unsuited to walking, cycling or leisure and a daily eye sore.

Solar energy is at least safe?

Each scheme requires hundreds of tons of lithium ion batteries in large shipping containers. If these catch fire there is no way to put them out, they would burn for days and emit toxic fumes at the same time. There is no mains water supply so the fire service wouldn’t even be able to damp them down. This is a big safety issue for everyone living in West Ipswich through to North of Somersham.

This diagram has been produced by an Energy Development Consultant to illustrate the area likely to be affected by toxic fumes from the battery storage. The actual distance is affected by things such as surface wind speed, relative humidity, temperature, atmospheric stability, and mixing height.

The company say they can improve the soil and bring some benefits to the environment.

This is just untrue. Enso will try to reduce damage, since they do want to maximise the chances of approval. But it can’t hide the fact that many mature trees will be cut down, soil will be compacted by construction, and species such as deer, woodpeckers, yellowhammer and many others will lose vital habitat. These schemes are anti-environmental, they are ugly, and should be a last resort for generating electricity, not a first option.

These schemes always get approved don’t they, what’s the point in objecting?

They don’t. In Suffolk at least two similar schemes have been rejected. This is a poorly thought out proposal and the Council will listen to your views. But you only have until 14th February to write. Use your own words on any issue that worries you and send it to planning@baberghmidsuffolk.gov.uk with the case reference number as the subject and your full name and address.

9 thoughts on “Solar Power Plant FAQs”

  1. I fully support any solar power initiative, I am not a cranky greenist just an ordinary man who wants to see less fossil fuels used. I have solar panels on my home and run a hybrid car (I would have an electric car but I have concerns about their range).
    I can understand concerns about using up agricultural land and often wonder why all new homes don’t have solar panels and an electrical storage system. I realise these would add a cost to each home, but a very small one. We waste so much roof a
    rea which has no other uses.
    What happened to the Japanese system that made windows into solar PV panels?

    1. Hi Brian. Yes we very much support solar as a renewable source of energy, and agree that solar should go on rooftops before valuable agricultural land. We can’t understand why they aren’t mandatory on rooftops, especially new builds, yet either. However we also believe the notion that just because it is solar, it should not outweigh the risks associated with the specific location of a proposal. For example, both of these proposals contain hundreds of thousands of solar panels which would contain known carcinogenic heavy metals. The only thing preventing these from entering the soil and water system is a sheet of glass. The land these sites are proposed for contribute to the drinking water supply of Ipswich and the surrounding areas. We aren’t aware of a way to safely contain the water system of 444 acres of land and the Suffolk County Council Flood and Water Management Team have voiced this concern too.

      1. I can understand your concern over possible carcinogenic material coming out of the panels. These can’t be high volume items that could be contained in a catchment area under each panel, these trays could be removed for processing within the system maintenance programme.at no threat to the operative.

        Some countries have successfully combined solar panel installations with the growing of fruit and vedge, how did they do it? I think it was South Africa.
        I want a safe world, but I also want a world that isn’t held to ransom by the oil moguls.
        I also don’t understand why every home doesn’t have a small (say 2 Kva ) vertical vane wind generator. Cheap and cheerful and would supply enough DC to power our Computers, TVs and rechargeables with just a little planning forethought, most of these items run on DC and require a voltage controlled retifier to drop the mains down to their basic operating input.
        Take care and stay safe

        B

  2. I approve of the solar generating scheme in general and would like to challenge one of the above assertions. I’m pretty sure ( I’m a local heavy land farmer ) that the solar project will improve the soil, and that the compaction objection is a misunderstanding of how land gets severely damaged, as it certainly does, by heavy machinery. The total amount ( by both time duration and weight ) of compaction of this land will be vastly reduced from the current intensive farming levels. For an annual wheat crop the land is “travelled” probably at least ten times a year ( at a very conservative estimate ) by a tractor / sprayer / combine weighing never less than approximately 8 – 10 tons each time. If the panels are installed and maintained in good dry ground conditions the damage from the relatively small machinery will be insignificant, and as the frequency of travel on the land will presumably be enormously less than if farmed the land will have time to recover, which land naturally does over time. Furthermore, whilst fencing will undoubtedly restrict larger mammals, like deer, I see no reason why birds and smaller mammals wouldn’t welcome the “sanctuary” of quiet enclosed rough grassland areas.

    1. Hello Simon. Thank you for you taking the time to read and understand, and for your question. We hope the following article will help explain the conclusion regarding the compaction and flooding.
      http://www.caresuffolk.org/2020/12/10/increased-flood-risk-from-solar-farms/

      We have a few farmers in our group who are also well versed in heavy land, one of which was also a consultant with Cranfield University when they were compiling their soil map. And along with our flood researcher and an ex-Environment Agency employee they have put together the article for us. Let us know if you have any further questions.

  3. Did you know, 1kg of wheat produces 950g of flour? This is just another example of the inaccuracies in your reporting. So 882 tonnes of wheat produces approx 837 tonnes of flour.
    Can you tell me what the land earmarked for the solar panels produced food wise in the last 5 years and how much was sold in the UK?
    If anyone is worried about how this is going to look, when restrictions allow, take a trip out to Parham Airfield and see of you can find the solar farm!!

    1. Would that be wholegrain flour or white flour please? 1kg of clean milling wheat will produce 1kg of wholegrain flour.
      As to the amount of food produced, only the farmers accounts would be able to tell you that information and that is private business data. We don’t have access to that.
      Parham Airfield is actually a really good example of a well designed and located solar farm. The land is relatively flat and contained within one area, it uses brownfield/previously developed land, and does not interrupt any public rights of way. It is very different to what is being proposed by Enso Energy and EDF Renewables.

      1. Whole grain. It is not possible to retain 100% as some is lost in moisture which evaporates from the Friction heat during the milling process.

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