Novus are assisting Innova who are planning to develop, construct and operate a new solar installation at North Preston Farm, to the north of Preston Bowyer and east of Milverton. The site will have the ability to generate 25MWp of renewable energy, enough to power 6,420 homes and save 5,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
The site has been carefully selected and designed during a detailed assessment process considering grid availability, solar irradiance, heritage, landscape & amenity, ecology & environmental designations, access, and agricultural land quality.
A planning application has been submitted to Somerset West and Taunton Council. The application documents can be viewed via the council’s planning portal using the reference 23/22/0028.
The iterative design process has informed a layout which provides a buffer from adjacent land uses and potential receptors of the site. The site also benefits from mature and effective woodland screening, minimising visual impact.
A public footpath passes through the site therefore the development fences have been set back to retain a wide corridor whilst the northern section will see the addition of a new native hedgerow planted. The layout plan includes the reinstatement of historic hedgerows and ponds which had previously been removed for modern farming practices.
The solar farm will be made suitable for grazing within the fenced area, and seeded with an appropriate grassland mix. The margins of the site outside the fence can be used for other habitat enhancements.
Solar Panels: The solar panels will be mounted with a maximum rear height of approximately 3m using frames fixed to the ground with piled posts or ground screws.
Inverters units: Convert the power from DC to AC and are mounted on the back of the solar panels at intervals.
Substation buildings: Approximately 6.1m x 2.4m x 2.6m and required to connect the solar farm to the local electricity network, and meter the production.
Transformer units: Approximately 10.5m overall x 3.5m x 3.0m will be required for each section of the solar farm to step the voltage up to a suitable export level.
Perimeter fence: Approximately 2 metres high, consisting of wooden posts supporting traditional wire stock fencing to match the local vernacular as required by the local authority. Infrared CCTV cameras may be required which would look along the fence line with no exterior lighting required anywhere on site.
Access to the site will use an existing farm entrance from the B3227 eastbound, and therefore there will be no traffic through the town of Milverton. Traffic management measures will be employed to ensure safe entry and exit from this junction.
Advanced notification will be provided for road users and residents ahead of the anticipated 16-week construction period. Upon completion of construction, there will be minimal traffic during the operational period with maintenance only requiring a site visit roughly once per month.
Specialist Environmental Surveys
A range of specialist consultants have undertaken surveys to be submitted with the planning application in order to aid in the design process and ensure the site is appropriate for solar development.
Landscape & Visual: The site extends across three very large fields, well screened within an extensive network of bounding hedges and woodland. A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) is currently underway.
Land Quality: An assessment of the soil quality has been conducted. It’s expected that the land will be taken out of intense agricultural production and be able to rest whilst the solar farm is in place. There should be no long term affect to soil quality as a result of the solar farm construction and overall soil health will improve over the operational lifetime.
Cultural Heritage and Archaeology: No designated heritage assets are located within the proposed development. The assessment includes listed buildings and historic built form. A geophysical survey of the site has identified few archaeology features and this has been further verified by a targeted trial trenching campaign.
Ecology: Typical farmland species have been observed. Ecological enhancement measures will encourage wildlife within the site. The hedgerow network will be retained and reinforced, and the site seeded as grassland to prevent further soil erosion.
Hydrology: The site is located in flood zone 1 which is the lowest risk zone from river flooding. Surface water present within the area is also deemed as low risk. Therefore it has been concluded the development is appropriate for the areas flood risk classification.
Noise: An assessment into the noise effects from the solar farm has found there to be no noise related issues with no observed effects.
Glint and Glare: A survey has been commissioned and shown there to be no effects of glint and glare on any nearby receptors.
Renewable 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. Somerset West and Taunton has declared a climate emergency and is committed to working towards making the area as a whole carbon neutral by 2030.
The UK has committed to becoming Net Zero by 2050 and a target to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2035 is also in place. This requires an extra 3GW of solar to be built each year. Renewable energy developments like Ham Farm Solar & Storage Project are a key part of addressing the Climate Emergency.
Will Traffic be travelling through Milverton?
No, it is our intention that traffic will access from the east of the B3227, avoiding Milverton. Construction traffic will be subject to management for safe entry/egress onto this road. Following construction of the site there should only be roughly 1 visit per month for site maintenance.
How will the Public Right of Way be affected?
In the construction phase, the footpath will need to be managed for safety and the best methods for this will be agreed with the local authority in consultation with key stakeholders and consultees. Once the solar farm is in operation the public right of way will continue to be accessible with boundary fences set back and a new hedgerow planted in the eastern field opposite the footpath.
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