A record number of solar schemes are in the planning pipeline, from the outskirts of Hull to huge sites in the Wolds, but not all have been welcomedA boom in new solar energy schemes is set to change the face of the East Yorkshire countryside.
Over a decade ago, a series of large onshore wind farm projects created the first wave of a renewable energy revolution in the area. However when government subsidies for onshore schemes were slashed in 2015, the pace of change slowed down.
Now things are picking up again but with a focus on solar power rather than wind. At the moment, no fewer than 22 separate planning applications for solar-related developments are lodged with East Riding Council.
They range from what is potentially one of the largest solar developments in the region at a 370-acre site near Pocklington to plans to install rooftop panels at the Aldi supermarket in Cottingham and a solar-powered electric vehicle charging hub next to a new drive-through coffee shop on the eastbound A63 near North Ferriby. Other large-scale solar farm proposals currently include a 170-acre scheme near Hedon and a slightly larger 185-acre development featuring ground-mounted panels and battery storage units at Tickton near Beverley.
The proposed Soay Solar Farm and Green Grid Park at a site between the villages of Allerthorpe and Thornton near Pocklington is being promoted by Norwegian state-owned Statkraft, Europe’s largest producer of green energy. If approved, the £125m development would be capable of generating enough electricity to power around 18,500 homes once fully operational.
Alongside ground-mounted solar panels would be a separate facility known as a Green Grid Park. It would be designed to allow a more flexible use for the electricity being generated at the site, including storage for later release at times of peak demand to reduce the risk of blackouts.
With an existing connection to the National Grid already nearby, it also fits into the wider picture of the UK’s attempt to shift away from a reliance on international fossil fuel energy. This homegrown approach has been highlighted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent issue around Russia’s oil and gas contracts with other countries.
Like the previous series of approved onshore wind farm schemes in the East Riding, the latest wave of solar farm applications is generating a mix of local support and opposition. Tickton and Routh Parish Council has backed the scheme on its doorstep but a similar proposal in nearby Wawne has prompted objections with some residents raising concerns over potential construction traffic and long-term site security.In the submission, the trust’s planning ecologist Ellen Milner says:
“Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is compelled to object to the proposed development as the proposed habitat creation and enhancement plans do not present the best outcome for nature at this location. Lowland dry heath is an exceptionally rare and endangered habitat in Yorkshire and it is the naturally occurring habitat in the area of the proposed development.
“The proposed habitat creation plan intends to create grassland and scrub habitats at this location. However, the creation of such habitats is alien to this location and runs contrary to both the ecology of the area and a myriad of ecological and planning regulation and best practice. Further, the creation of grassland and scrub habitats would deny the opportunity to create lowland dry heathland habitat at the same location, the creation of which would significantly expand the area of one of Yorkshire’s rarest habitats.”
Allerthorpe Parish Council has also submitted an objection, describing the proposed development as “unacceptable in terms of size and scale” . The council claims it would have a” “negative impact” on the surrounding countryside and the village itself., not least because the whole site would be surrounded by a 3.4m high metal fence.
Like the onshore wind farms before them, solar farm developers face the challenge of striking a balance between the need for cleaner energy and finding the right location for the facilities to generate it. And once again, the villages and green fields of the East Riding will be in the spotlight as they do so.
Source: Hull Live