Following the UK Government's declaration of an “Environment and Climate Emergency” in May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised that to meet ‘Net Zero' targets, the UK will require substantial amounts of new, low carbon power sources to be built before 2050, up to four times that of today's levels.
Monmouthshire County Council declared their own Climate Emergency in May 2019 and have since produced a Climate and Decarbonisation Strategy document which commits the council to the following policies:
In the past, renewable energy has been expensive, and solar and wind projects have required public subsidies to make these projects commercially viable. Many people believe that still to be the case. However, due to the rapid reduction in cost of solar, projects like the Penpergwm Solar Farm can be built without any subsidy and at a cheaper cost than conventional generation.
The site has been carefully selected following a detailed feasibility process. Locating a solar farm is a grid-led process because renewable generation projects are no longer subsidised. As the UK's energy grid is highly constrained, with limited available capacity to connect new generation. Where network capacity is available, this represents an important opportunity to find a suitable site for renewable energy generation.
Whilst this is a key consideration in selecting a location for a solar farm, it is by no means the only one. To ensure compliance with planning policy and to minimise disruption to local residents, this site is not located within a sensitive area, as defined by Environmental Impact Assessment regulations, or an environmentally or ecologically designated land such as an AONB. Technical studies and reports are still being conducted to inform the final site design to ensure impacts are reduced to the greatest extent possible.
The development proposes a life span of up to 40 years. No later than this, the development would be decommissioned, and the site returned to solely agricultural use. A decommissioning plan will be provided with the planning submission.
The solar farm would be connected, via a substation to an existing 132 KV overhead power line that crosses the site. No additional infrastructure would be visible outside of the fence surrounding the solar farm.
Increased traffic volumes will be generated during the construction and decommissioning phases, however overall volume of traffic generated by the solar farm once it is operating will be low.
Traffic during construction will be managed via a Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) which will put in place measures to include.
It is anticipated that the site would be accessed from the B4598 via a local road running from Penpergwm. An existing entrance to the farm will be upgraded to allow construction access.
Our draft CTMP can be viewed here.
Solar farms do not lead to the permanent loss of agricultural soils. The land can even continue to be used for agriculture, in the form of sheep grazing, once the solar farm is constructed. Given that this farm is already used for sheep grazing, the land would be a dual use. At the end of the life of the solar farm, the land will be returned to solely agricultural use. National and local planning policies allow for the development of renewable energy within the countryside, including the use of greenfield sites or agricultural land.
Brownfield land of this scale is seldom available for solar and typically any brownfield land is located within or on the edge of urban areas where the policy presumption prioritises residential or commercial developments. Solar generation requires unobstructed and direct exposure to sunlight. Rural locations are less likely to be constrained or overshadowed by existing developments that would impede the function of a solar farm in built up areas. For greenfield sites, proposals should aim to use poorer quality agricultural land in preference to higher quality land. This is not always possible due to the feasibility process in selecting solar sites. Our planning application is supported by an Agricultural Land Classification Survey Report to determine the quality and grading on specific areas of a site. This has identified the project is a mix of grade 2, 3a and 3b.
This can be reviewed here.
Solar panels themselves do not generate noise. While some electrical components will generate some noise during the daytime, these will be located away from site boundaries and will not be audible from a public location. You can review our draft noise assessment here.
There are Public Right of Way's (PROW) within and around the edges of the Site and the internal site access tracks would be designed so that these PROW's can remain open at all times and be kept clear of any development with a buffer zone either side of the PROWs. Education boards would be sited along the rights of way to give information about the project to people utilising the paths. In addition, we are proposing the creation of a new footpath through our wildflower meadow area.
A solar farm of this scale would take around six months to construct. The exact timing of the construction works would be dictated by when planning permission is received and when the local electricity network operator (Western Power Distribution) can connect the scheme to the grid network. However, if we do achieve consent, we would hope to commence construction in mid to late 2023.
Solar panels are designed to absorb as much light as possible and not to reflect it and as such the risk of glint and glare impacts on residential properties from this project is anticipated as negligible. We have undertaken a glint and glare assessment to assess impacts on public roads and Abergavenny Aerodrome which lies c. 1km from the site. This concluded there would be no impacts. You can see the draft report here.
The site is in an area that has no risk of flooding. Because the site would be grass throughout the operational life of the project, there would actually be an improvement in stormwater attenuation compared to ploughed fields. A draft flood risk assessment and drainage strategy has been prepared and is available for review here.
The site design, coupled with the tree cover along field boundaries, would prevent any significant views or intervisibility with locally listed buildings. No designated or non-designated heritage assets are recorded within the boundary of the site. An assessment of the impact of the project on built heritage has been prepared and the draft report is available for review here.
If the proposed Penpergwm Solar Farm does proceed, we want to make a positive contribution to the community for the long term. We invite and encourage you to provide us with ways in which we can contribute to the local community in the best way possible. We can't promise to meet every request made, but we can promise to listen and consider your proposals for local ownership and ways of benefiting the community. If you want to get in touch, please contact us.
Great House Energy Centre is aware of the Welsh Government's commitment for 1GW of renewable energy capacity in Wales to be locally owned by 2030. While policy on how renewable energy developers can meet this objective has yet to be formally published, Great House Energy Centre is working with our delivery partner European Energy to develop a community ownership offering to allow local people to invest in stake of the project. This is both in response to the Welsh Government's draft policy statement for local ownership and also feedback we have received from local people who are interested in such an offering.
Great House Energy Centre is excited to share further details of our proposals when we formally submit our application later in 2021. We will also be detailing our community benefit offering which will be made available to the local community close to the project.
When this site was initially identified, Great House Energy Centre anticipated a project size of between 55 and 60MW based on the land available and the capacity in the local grid network.
As our design has developed and taking into consideration feedback from technical consultants and stakeholders, we have reduced the overall project capacity to 40MW by removing panels from certain areas of the site with a higher impact. Large areas of the farm remain free from panels to ensure farming can continue, adequate clearance is maintained from neighbouring properties, and a suite of wildlife and landscaping proposals can be adopted to integrate the development into the surrounding landscape.
Great House Energy Centre will continue to refine our proposals based on continued assessments, and feedback from the local community.
Great House Energy Centre has undertaken an extensive site selection exercise throughout the local area in order to identify a potential site which has the capacity to host a solar project of this size. Key considerations included:
This site is suitable, not only because it meets these criteria, but also because it has mature trees and hedgerows along many of the boundaries which will limit longer range views of the site. In addition, we have worked with the landowner to avoid areas where local residences are in close proximity, and areas of the farm which are more prominent. As a consequence, the panel areas are restricted to three separate locations and with additional plant screening, the panel areas will further integrate into the surrounding landscape.
Great House Energy Centre and our technical consultants have undertaken numerous visits to the site since early 2020. We have worked with a qualified landscape and visual consultant to develop our proposals to minimise impacts on views from local residences and sensitive views in the wider area, including Brecon Beacons National Park. We have worked to avoid the more prominent areas of the site, while recognising that existing and proposed vegetation will help to integrate the solar park into the wider landscape from those areas of panels we have retained.
We are continuing to refine our proposals based on feedback we receive and look forward to publishing updated proposals during formal consultation.
The majority of the solar project requires no lighting. Some security light may be installed at the electricity substation where the project connects to the grid. However, this will only be illuminated when people are present and its location will not be visible from residences in close proximity.
The project will be surrounded by a perimeter fence which will be wooden poles with deer fencing, typical of an agricultural setting. The purpose of the fence is to keep large animals out of the site and prevent damage to the panels. However, the mesh will still allow smaller animals through the fencing to forage within the array.
Access to the site will be from the south via Penpergwm. Vehicles would then travel along approximately 750m of the local road. We are proposing all deliveries will use an existing farm entrance to the south of the site to limit any construction traffic on the local road network. The existing access has been assessed for its suitability and discussions with Monmouthshire County Council Highways Department has confirmed the appropriateness of this entrance.
Great House Energy Centre has prepared a draft Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) which can be viewed here. This will detail how deliveries to the site will be managed during construction to limit disruption to other road users.
In terms of operation of the site, access requirements will be limited to infrequent maintenance visits by vans. There should be no material increase in traffic from vehicles using this area at present.
While we will make all of our online materials available in both the English and Welsh languages, including our website, Great House Energy Centre will not be submitting a dual language planning application and therefore all planning documents will be in English only.
Great House Energy Centre is committed to being a good neighbour and will be making a voluntary contribution to support local causes once the site is operational.
The road which runs through Great House Farm will be maintained through the life of the proposed solar project, without limitation. Walkers and other users will be continue to be able to use the path and Renewable Connections is committed to ensuring recreational routes are enhanced where possible.
With restrictions on indoor gatherings in Wales remaining in force for the foreseeable future, Great House Energy Centre is unable to undertake face to face public information events during our formal public consultation.
Since the start of the Covid-19 restrictions, we have undertaken numerous virtual events with local communities across the UK. We have found it an effective way to receive feedback on our proposals and engage with the local community in a way that does not require people to put themselves at unnecessary risk of Covid-19. Furthermore, our experience is that digital engagement has opened up consultation to those who felt unable to attend in person events previously due to existing commitments.
© Renewable Connections 2020. This website is owned by Renewable Connections Holdings Limited and is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to invest.
Renewable Connections Holdings Limited is registered in England and Wales (no. 12351952). The company's registered office is at 141-145 Curtain Road, 3rd Floor, London, EC2A 3BX.