UK approves plan to develop the country’s largest solar farm in the south of England


Manuel Breva Colmeiro | Moment | Getty Images

The U.K. government on Thursday gave the green-light for plans to develop the country’s largest solar park, a sprawling project which will cover a large chunk of land on the north Kent coast.

A joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy, the £450 million ($555 million) Cleve Hill Solar Park will be located near the towns of Faversham and Whitstable.

The subsidy-free 350 megawatt scheme will use 880,000 solar panels and have the capacity to power more than 91,000 homes. The project is also set to include an energy storage facility to send electricity to the grid as and when required.

The U.K. government is targeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 and is aiming to remove coal from Britain’s energy system by the year 2025. It recently announced it would consult on moving this deadline to October 1, 2024.

All of these goals will inevitably require the development of more renewable energy projects.

Chris Hewett, the chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said in a statement published Thursday that the government’s decision on the Cleve Hill Solar Park had shown it recognized the “vital contribution” solar can make to Britain’s energy mix.

“This is a major milestone on the road towards a U.K. powered by clean, affordable renewables,” Hewett added.

While the approval of the scheme has been welcomed by some, concerns have been raised about its impact on the local landscape and wildlife and the project has been opposed by a number of organizations. In a Facebook post, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent, Helen Whately, described the news as: “Hugely frustrating and upsetting”.

For their part, the project’s developers say they have “collaborated with local groups and nature conservation bodies to deliver significant local environmental benefits in the design of the scheme”. 

The decision comes in the same week that Leicestershire County Council announced plans for a solar farm which could produce nearly 10,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually once up and running. If the plans are approved, the first phase of the development is estimated to cost approximately £14 million, according to authorities.

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