21,000 panel solar park for Yorkshire

Plans to create a huge solar park in Yorkshire that could power as many as 1,400 homes have been welcomed by environmentalists while also warning that agricultural land should not be sacrificed for the project. Developers say however that the land will still be available for grazing sheep

Dodds Ltd has submitted the plans to East Riding Council for the £5 million project which will be located just outside Ottringham, in Holderness. The site lies just off the A1033 and will consist of 21,000 Chinese-manufactured solar panels. The developers say the farm will be barely visible from the road.

"We are hoping it will be the first of many" said business development manager Martin Bleasby. "It is going to be a landmark site which will hopefully attract more investment into the area – proof that solar photovoltaic does work this far North."

The park will extend over 34 acres of agricultural land and consist of non-reflective, south-facing panels mounted on steel frames set in concrete foundations. The park is expected to generate around 5MW of energy and could be operational by April.

"On the face of it, it sounds fine – a local solution to a problem. This sort of scale is more acceptable – you need a mix of all different types of renewable energy to fill the gap" said Hull Friends of the Earth campaigner Sue Joliffe, "but we wouldn't want to see the countryside covered in them, just as you wouldn't want the whole countryside covered in wind turbines. Agricultural land is at a premium – we need it for food."

Dodds is hoping to set up a "meet the buyer" event for companies who could contribute services to the construction of the farm and will also be holding a series of public meetings to discuss any concerns.  "You will hardly see it from the roadside, because the land is quite flat and the hedge is quite high" said Mr Bleasby. "You will probably only see it if you're on a double decker bus."

Changes to government subsidies has made it more attractive for investors to support large-scale schemes while capital costs have plunged by 50% as a result of increasing competition.

"Larger solar farms are becoming more common and the main reason for that was until recently feed-in tariffs offered a more generous return than renewable obligation certificates" a spokesman for the Solar Trade Association said. "It made more sense to put them on peoples' houses than on a field. Now the feed-in tariff has come down to a level where it is basically equivalent to a renewable obligation certificate and so that means developers can benefit from the economies of scale and it makes more sense to do larger scale than small scale."

Dodds is a family-run business that moved into the renewables sector over two years ago. The company will be relocating to Bainton where it intends to unveil an East Yorkshire renewables technology showcase where visitors will be able to see operating examples of solar PV and biomass boilers. It usually sells around 5,000 panels a month, mainly to commercial and agricultural businesses.

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