Sun may shine on Kimbolton panel farm

HAVING seen off plans for a four-turbine wind farm on the former airfield site at Bicton, Kimbolton could now play host to a 23,000-panel solar farm on 16 hectares of nearby farmland.

Prosolia UK Limited wants to build the five megawatt photovoltaic farm at Rookery Farm, Stow Longa, and attach it to the local 33kV grid through a new substation.

The applicants say the solar farm will be much less visually obtrusive than the proposed wind farm, for which a government inspector supported Huntingdonshire District Council’s refusal of planning consent earlier this year.

Wyboston-based Prosolia says the council has indicated support for the 23,120-panel solar farm in initial discussion of the proposal.

The company says the south-facing panels - in 578 arrays each containing up to 40 modules, set out in long rows running east-west across the site - would be two metres high, with the compound surrounded by a 2.4-metre fence with hedging outside that. The farm would take around eight weeks to build, and 35 HGVs would be needed to deliver the dark-blue anti-glare panels. The applicants say only the edges of the solar farm will be visible

“The site will function with minimal intervention, and maintenance requirements are expected to consist of monthly cleaning and checking of the panels and cutting of the grass between the arrays,” it explains.

“There is sufficient space available to deploy the panels, adequate exposure to un-shaded land, good existing access links, a viable local grid connection and a relatively secluded location overlooked by relatively few residential properties. The area has no statutory landscape designation and already contains industrial and non-agricultural uses.”

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Prosolia, which designs, installs and manages large scale solar-powered renewable energy systems that range from commercial rooftop installations to large, ground-based solar farms covering up to 35 acres, says the farm would be dismantled after 25-30 years and the land returned to agriculture.

HDC development manager Andy Moffatt told The Hunts Post: “In principle, government planning policy supports solar farms as a form of renewable energy.

“The main issue is the visual impact, and there’s no doubt that solar farms have a far more localised impact than wind farms.”

Amy Howard, who used to be spokesman for the Stop Bicton Windfarm action group, which successfully opposed the turbines, said the group had not taken a collective view of the solar proposal.

“But, as a resident of Stow Longa, my personal view is that it would be infinitely preferable to a wind farm, so long as issues such as glare are addressed,” she added.