A 350MW solar farm has been approved for construction on the North Kent coast. Once built, it will be the UK’s largest solar farm.

Business secretary Alok Sharma gave the go-ahead for developers Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy to start work on the project in Spring 2021.

The developers said the 958-acre site, located in the village of Graveney, will lower carbon emissions by 68,000 tonnes a year and will not require subsidies.

In a first for the UK, it will use an “East-West panel orientation”, consisting of 880,000 solar panels that should be able to generate 44 per cent more electricity than if the site used panels oriented south.

Campaigners had previously opposed the plans over concerns that it could negatively impact the wildlife in the surrounding area. The Faversham Society, which aims to protect the nearby town’s heritage and objected to the scheme, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision. In a statement, it said: “This decision will have a major impact on our community as a market town set in a rural coastal environment.”

“We are opposed to any development project that will detract from, not enhance, our community.”

The Kent Wildlife Trust had previously argued that marsh harriers, which breed and feed in the area, could be “displaced” by the presence of the solar panels.

CPRE Kent said: “We absolutely support the provision of renewable energy, but solar panels should be on roofs, not trashing landscapes in an astonishingly beautiful part of the North Kent marshes.”

Of the total 958 acre site, about 436 acres will be covered with solar panels, which will be able to rise to a height of 3.9 metres.

It will also feature one of the world’s largest storage batteries, the project’s spokeswoman said.

Developers Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy, which announced the plans in 2017, said 138 acres of the site will be set aside for overwintering birds, while “one of the largest” open meadows in south-east England will also be created.

A BEIS spokesperson said in a statement that the decision to grant the project consent was taken after “careful consideration”.

“Solar power has the capacity to play an important role in the UK ending its contribution to climate change by 2050,” he said.


Article originally published by Engineering & Technology

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