Where should I put my solar farm?

How do you balance the need for low carbon energy sources for the community with treasured landscapes, areas of growth and development, and an electricity grid built for centralised power distribution?

With top-down targets to meet as well as demand from communities across the region, this local authority sought expert advice to ensure a robust assessment of the potential for solar PV farms within their planning boundary, in order to influence their Local Plan. Using GIS mapping data available to the local authority, 50 sites were identified with potential to host a solar PV farm within a kilometre of a substation, accounting for AONBs, agricultural land, urban areas, future development zones, and other constraints.

Sounds great! But that’s an unrealistic proposition for a local authority trying to prioritise effort and give clear signals to the market, when developers are proposing sites to the Inspectorate. Carbon Smart was required to apply further constraints to give a realistic picture of the prospects for local generation in this region.

The feasibility of a solar farm is governed by a number of factors, including distance to substations or transmission lines, as well as the condition of that infrastructure. Our team assessed the state of the grid at each location, prioritised those substations through liaising with the DNO (Distribution Network Operator). Since  this is a system in constant flux, with reinforcing works, new connections and upgrades on the wider network taking place on a rolling basis, setting priorities for the next ten years in the context of a Local Plan was a challenge. We addressed this challenge by analysing longer range trends in the region, including scheduled future works, the volume of planned local generation sites, and the condition of grid stations and super stations on the wider network. We successfully delivered a target list of a handful of optimal sites for solar farms, along with a longer list of potential sites on the network. While these mid-priority sites are in areas constrained by the local grid, future works to reinforce the grid will release capacity for new solar PV farms in these locations within the term of the Local Plan.

By working with Carbon Smart’s team of experts, the local authority successfully identified multiple prime locations for solar PV farms within their planning remit to include in the Local Plan, with robust support for each site, offering an attractive proposition for developers seeking new sites in the region.

If you need help with a similar issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

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