A planning application has been lodged for a solar farm on Squirrel Lane, on the opposite side of the road from the current solar farm (22/02151/FUL). The solar farm will have a capacity of up to 12MW and will be in place for forty years.

This scheme has been well thought through and has been discussed with local residents. There will be wildlife enhances and hedgerow screening. But it will be an intrusion of steel and glass in the landscape.

This application, which is in Richard Huffer’s Clee division, may come to the Southern Planning Committee for a decision so I am not expressing a view at this stage.

By coincidence, MPs will be holding a debate on solar farms and battery storage on Wednesday 8 June.

The development is being promoted by Locogen on behalf of Ledwyche Solar Ltd, one of many companies set up with Locogen to promoted renewable energy. The plan is to install solar panels, security fencing, CCTV cameras, an internal access track, underground cabling, inverters, substations, grid connection, environmental enhancement measures and other ancillary development.

The Ludlow substation in Squirrel Lane imports most of its electricity from outside the area as there is very little local generating capacity. The combined schemes, depending on the final details and their approval, would add more than 130MW capacity locally.

Proposed and operational solar farms in the Ludlow area

Capacity at the substation is not the only reason for locating solar farms close to Squirrel Lane. Locogen says:

In a subsidy-free environment, developing renewables solely to supply to the electricity grid is challenging to make financially viable. The minimum threshold for a viable project is a balance between the scale of the project and the price of the grid connection. This price is often dictated by distance from the point of connection (POC) onto the grid, which can be at a substation, or onto an overhead line in close proximity to a substation. The distance not only dictates the amount of cable required and extent of losses, but also the level of associated impact. Essentially, locating solar projects near to the POC minimises the cost and impact on the local environment.

The connection to the grid for this proposed solar farm will use an underground cable to a 33kw power line to the south. (To locate this, it’s through the farm gate at Lower Ledwyche, turn right to pass the woodpile. The connection point will be at the sharp left bend before the path descends to Cay Brook.)

Current hedgerows will be retained and improved with new trees and hedgerows to screen the site from nearby properties and footpaths. These will be maintained for the lifetime of the solar farm. After discussions with residents, who pointed out that flooding along the Ledwyche Brook had increased in recent years, additional swales have been included along the south edge of the site to reduce the rate of runoff. Along with returning the fields to pasture below the panels, these measures will reduce the rate of runoff to below current levels.

Again, after discussions with residents the view towards the site from the nearest properties will be screen by a new 3m native species high hedge including hawthorn. A wildflower meadow will be planted between the hedge and the solar panels. The pollen will benefit the Ludlow and District Beekeepers Association who have an apiary in Ledwyche with around one million bees. Overall, nearly 0.5km of new hedgerow and 15 trees will be planted, and 1.5 hectares of existing arable farmland will be set aside for the wildflower meadow.

Access for the site during construction and maintenance will be from the A4117, entering the site at the grain dryer. Locogen is proposing close supervision of contractors entering and exiting the site in order to avoid issues previously encountered during the construction of the Henley Solar Farm. A Community Liaison Group will be established.

The site will be surrounded by a 2m high deer fence. It will also be protected by an infrared motion detection system and a remote camera surveillance system, with cameras no more than 3m above the ground and looking inwards to the site.

Locogen and Ledwyche Solar Farm Ltd have committed to a community benefit fund for use by the local area. Such funds cannot be considered during the planning process and few details are being given at this stage. Locogen does state:

“Initial discussions with the community have highlighted the desire for funds to be directed at least in the first instance to the village of Ledwyche given the proximity of this village to the Proposed Development and a concern amongst local residents that Ledwyche did not receive a reasonable proportion of the funds which were allocated by the current operational solar farm.”

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