Location and Access
The proposed solar farm will be located to the south-west of the A50 trunk road and to the north-east of the Derby to Crewe railway line.
The site of the proposed solar farm straddles the parishes of Checkley and Draycott in the Moors.
Part of the proposed solar farm will be adjacent to the existing solar farm but will not be operated as an extension of that solar farm and will be in
Access onto the solar farm will be from the existing lane to the north-west which serves Upper Newton and Lower Newton Farms.
Once construction is completed, there will be minimal traffic during the operational period as the equipment needs only to be checked
roughly once or twice a month.
Appearance and Operation
The proposed development comprises solar panels and infrastructure, battery storage and a sub-station.
The solar panels are made of photovoltaic (PV) cells which are mounted on metal stands which are pushed firmly into the ground. The PV cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity and the panels are arranged to face south to gather maximum irradiation from the sun.
The electricity generated by the panels has a direct current (DC). This is covered to alternating current (AC) by inverters and exported to the Grid to provide a renewable source of energy.
The panels do not need full sunlight to generate electricity. They require daylight, so even on a cloudy day, they will still work.
The maximum height of the panels at the rear is 3m.
Battery storage works by importing electricity from the National Grid at times of low demand. The electricity is then stored within the battery modules and exported to Grid at times of high demand.
Within the proposed development, it is proposed to include battery storage towards the north western boundary of the site. It will comprise of ten storage container type buildings in which the battery modules will be housed. Each container will have a heating, ventilation and air-cooling unit and transformer. The battery storage compound will be enclosed by palisade fencing.
A sub-station is required to import electricity from the Grid to the batteries and to export the energy back from the batteries, and from the panels, to the Grid.
Green Energy and Climate Change
There is widespread awareness of the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and an encouragement to increase the generation and use of renewable energy. The UK Government has a legal obligation in relation to generating renewable energy and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Staffordshire Moorlands Council declared a climate emergency on 10th July 2019 and Staffordshire County Council declared a climate emergency on 25.07.2019.
The proposed solar farm and battery store will make an important contribution to the supply of renewable energy. The import/export capacity of the battery store will be 30MW. The proposed installed capacity of the panels will be 27.7 MWp. To provide some context,
that will be enough electricity to power 7,107 homes within the District1 annually, charge 666, 297 Nissan
Leaf electric cars2, boil 266,518,652 kettles and and
save 5,601 tonnes of carbon dioxide3 per year.
The construction period is estimated to take a maximum of 16 weeks. Construction vehicles to the site will managed by a Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP). This document is currently being drafted and the final version will be submitted with the
planning application and agreed with the relevant statutory consultees.
The CTMP will confirm construction access routes that will be used and any associated traffic control measures that may be required. This will be controlled by a planning condition, and will cover matters such as hours of A draft Construction.
A Construction Management Plan (CMP) will be submitted with the planning application and agreed with the relevant statutory consultees. This will be controlled by a planning condition, and will cover matters such as hours of construction work.
We undertook pre-application engagement with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in March 2021 and received the formal comments of the District Council in the following May. As part of that process planning officers sought the views of relevant statutory
consultees and provided feedback which has been fed into the design process.
Since that time, we have taken the decision to reduce the size and footprint of the project substantially. That is the current layout we are presenting and seeking feedback on today.
The proposed layout of the site has been informed by an analysis of the site character, and environmental and physical constraints and opportunities, drawing on desk and field work by a team of experts in landscape, heritage, hydrology and ecology. The project design is an iterative process, informed by the technical studies we have carried out and still plan to do, and feedback received at all stages, including feedback that we receive through this event.
Further technical work is underway in relation to noise, trees and archaeology and the layout of the site will be refined further when the results of this survey work is known and understood.
Landscape and Ecology
The site is currently agricultural land, predominantly pasture. The majority of the fields are enclosed by continuous hedgerows of varying height and most follow an irregular pattern. There are taller hedgerows and hedgerow trees at the north-eastern side of the site.
Hedgerows and trees not only provide habitats but are also important landscape features. They will be retained, and trees will be protected during construction.
There are numerous small ponds within and adjacent to the site and DNA testing has already identified the presence of Great Crested Newts. Breeding and winter bird surveys have also been undertaken and the final layout of the site will be designed to include mitigation and enhancements for both GCN and birds.
Within the solar PV area, a new grassland will be created and maintained to increase floristic diversity. This will help to increase pollen and nectar availability with consequent benefits for bees and other insects. The grassland between and around the panels can continue in agricultural use, and sheep grazing will help to maintain the ecological value of the grass sward.
The applicant is committed to achieving a Biodiversity Net Gain score which exceeds the level expected set out in the Environment Act 2021.
Planning - Next Steps
The proposal presented here reflects many months of consideration and includes feedback from technical specialists. Further work and refinement will be required before the application is finalised.
A planning application is being prepared for submission to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. This will include many technical reports and assessments to help the authority in considering the application. The application will be submitted in the early spring of 2022.
As part of the planning process, the authority will invite comments by a range of consultees, and the application documents will be available to view on the Council’s website.
Visit our GET INVOLVED page to have your say as part of our pre-application consultation.