Plans for 40,000 panel solar farm near Sawtry approved

Stow Longa Solar Farm

Stow Longa Solar Farm - Credit: Archant

Solar farms are rapidly becoming the acceptable face of renewable energy in Huntingdonshire as another large-scale project received the green light.

A proposal from Reading-based Solar WW Ltd to put about 40,000 panels on farmland off Double Bank Lane, Woodwalton, near Sawtry was approved by planners.

Measuring 1.65m by 1m and mounted on frames, it is estimated the panels will generate nine megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power 3,000 homes.

Sawtry Parish Council was the sole objector, raising concerns about the loss of agricultural land and the possibility of drivers and pilots being distracted by reflected light. Solar WW Ltd said the glare or glint would be minimal because the panels were made from material which was less reflective than glass, while the land would be returned to the farmer after 25 to 30 years.

A less intrusive alternative to wind farms, the solar equivalent has resulted in nothing like the outcry generated by turbines.

In the same week Huntingdonshire District Council gave the Woodwalton plan the green light, a much smaller scheme for 208 panels at Little Staughton Airfield was approved, again with no comment from people living nearby.

It has been a similar story for the district’s other solar farms. Huntingdonshire’s first, Prosolia UK’s application for 23,000 panels at Stow Longa, near Kimbolton, was passed on February 1 with minimal opposition.

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On February 19, Kettering-based Street Energy Limited was given planning permission for 28,704 panels – enough to power 1,800 homes – at Wiggin Hill Farm off Old Ramsey Road, St Ives. The town council queried its impact on flying from RAF Wyton, wildlife and flooding but still recommended approval.

Perhaps the biggest test will be the plan for Abbots Ripton Estate submitted by Abbots Ripton Solar Energy Limited.

Consisting of 102,480 panels, they would cover 58 hectares and generate 25 megawatts a year, enough electricity for 6,500 homes.

The site is more than double the size of the district’s next largest solar farm and despite its scale, Abbots Ripton and The Stukeleys parish councils are backing the proposal.

Carl Sutton from The Abbey Group, the company overseeing the proposal, said: “We are pleased to see that Huntingdonshire residents have reacted positively to our solar energy plans. The benefits of a well-designed, well-screened site mean that a solar farm can produce clean, renewable energy and be a good neighbour.”