Future Of Large Solar Installations Debated in Westminster

A GROUP of MPs battled it in Westminster last week out over the pros and cons of large scale solar developments.

Tory Totnes MP, Sarah Wollaston (pictured), was first up alleging that the impact solar panels had on the landscape was devastating.

She said: “My constituency covers an area from Holne on Dartmoor down to the sea; it takes in an area of outstanding natural beauty, several sites of special scientific interest and several special areas of conservation. South Hams district council has received 28 applications for large-scale solar projects: 25 have been approved and they are either in construction or awaiting construction; one is at appeal; and just two have been withdrawn.

“It is hard to convey the scale of these projects, or how much they cause devastation to the landscape; people have to see them to understand why communities are so worried about them.

“We do not want to resist solar PV as such; we want to resist inappropriate solar PV.”

Her fears were echoed by her fellow Conservative, Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, who said her consituents relied on tourism, and worried they may be put off if their beautiful countryside became covered in solar and wind farms.

Both were concerned that if farmers sold off or used their land to generate energy instead of food, there may be problems in the future regarding food security, rendering the country unable to feed itself.

However, Wells MP Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrat) had strong arguments for solar energy, saying it was a real option to meet our renewable energy needs and targets and keep the lights on..

She also advocated community solar projects.

She said: “In my patch is the Wedmore community power co-operative a 1 MW scheme of 4,000 panels on about five acres of land, edged with hedges and a tree-lined road. The site, a little way outside the centre of the village of Wedmore, will power 300 of the 550 homes at the centre of that community. It is on a smaller scale than most of the larger arrays, but that is all the better, as it is a model for other villages in rural areas.

“The Wedmore community power co-operative is encouraging as many local people as possible to invest in the scheme. As it is a community-led co-op set up by local people, every penny of the profit will flow back into the community.

“The scheme has a 27-year life, and the co-operative estimates that £605,000 will pour into the local area for all manner of projects to help the rural fuel-poor and help people with energy efficiency and insulation, particularly in hard-to-heat homes, which are common in my part of Somerset.”

Other MPs fighting the cause of solar were Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool, Wavertree and (perhaps obviously) Greg Barker, the Climate Change Minister.

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