Hive Energy has submitted plans for a new 40MW solar farm on land surrounding its offices in Hampshire. The solar farm is intended to be built without subsidy funding after 2018, when the economics of large scale solar PV projects work once again in the UK. The proposed site which would be leased for 25 years, will feature dedicated conservation areas, 5 miles of new public paths and new hedgerows and wildflowers planted to support biodiversity in the area. If approved, the development could produce enough electricity to power over 9,100 homes.
The proposed site at Woodington Farm in East Wellow near Romsey is comprised of two areas of land intersected by Smidmore Copse, totalling around 72 hectares. Only 20.6 hectares (28.6%) will feature solar panels and 45.6 hectares will remain open grassland, the rest of the farm will be dedicated to enhancing the natural fauna and flora of the location while opening up access and trail walks to the public.
During the consultation phase with local residents, Hive Energy learned that the community would benefit from access to additional public paths and surrounding woodland for outdoor pursuits such as walking and riding.
Tim Purbrick, Commerical Director, Hive Energy;
"As well as generating green, clean energy and reducing carbon emissions, the solar park will improve biodiversity and create new public paths. The existing paths run past an area of land used for pig farming and as a result are not widely used by the public. Creating new paths was a key request from local people during the consultation phase and as a result our plans have evolved to include 5.1 miles of new public walks and trails that will be created around the site giving the local community access through 12 hectares of woodland and conservation areas to enjoy”.
The site as a whole lies within the open countryside and currently comprises agricultural farmland set within a framework of fields bordered by hedgerows and trees. These existing features will be used to conceal the solar farm from view and a further 2 miles of new hedging will be planted throughout the site, infilling poor sections of hedge and creating new hedgerows to support and encourage wildlife. The biodiversity of the site will be additionally enhanced by the planting of wildflowers and the installation of bat and bird boxes, hibernacula and insect ‘hotels’ within a dedicated Conservation Area of approximately 5.2 hectares.
The project has an accepted 40MW grid connection offer from SSE to connect to an onsite tower on their 132kV network. Given this high level connection there will be no opportunities for local PPAs or to power Hive Energy's offices, which are already, in part, supplied by its own solar PV roof project. The 132kV network that the Woodington Farm Solar Park project will connect to is between the SSE Bulk Supply Points at Andover and Marchwood. SSE will decide which Primary Sub Stations on the 33kV network the electricity should be distributed to. Hive Energy also plan to examine options to install storage technology at the site to allow delivery of electricity to the National Grid through its existing range of support mechanisms.
If approved, the construction phase of the project is expected to take approximately 16 weeks subject to factors such as weather conditions, but is unlikely to commence before 2018.