One Objection to the Gold’s Cross Hill Solar PV Park in Devon

There follows the basis of a 5 minute presentation I will be giving to a meeting of the Teignbridge District Council planning committee later on this morning, hastily copied from PowerPoint. Upon my return I’ll let you know what effect it had, if any. You can also download a PDF version of the presentation here.

Gold’s Cross Hill Solar PV Park

Objections to the proposal

from

Jim Hunt

V2G Limited


Who Am I?

Technical Director of V2G Limited

V2G is short for “Vehicle to Grid” (Small scale electricity storage. Nissan Leaf = 24 kWh)

I have decades of experience in the automation of electricity distribution.

See Appendix A for more information


Why’s That Relevant?

In brief, I help keep your lights on!

I help keep the lights on in places like Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone too.

Solar parks need a lot of that sort of technology as well. A fact that never seems to get mentioned by their proposers.

“Sustainability” of renewable energy projects, especially solar “farms”, requires “grid level energy storage”, which doesn’t currently exist at sufficient scale (1 MW for 1 Day = 24,000 kWh).

Electrical energy storage never seems to get mentioned by developers either.

See Appendix B for more information


Planning Guidelines?

From paragraph 3.19 of your officer’s report before you – “NPPF introduces the presumption in favour of sustainable development”

From paragraph 3.38 of that report – “The proposal is considered to be finely balanced”

From the Ministerial foreword to the NPPF –“Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations”.

“Sustainable development is about change for the better, and not only in our built environment. Our natural environment is essential to our wellbeing, and it can be better looked after than it has been.”

Let’s look more closely at how “sustainable” this particular proposed PV “development” really is.

Food Security versus Energy Security?

The Realities of Solar PV!


The Site is Mainly Arable Land

From paragraph 3.2 of the report in front of you – “There can be no certainty about whether [the land] is Grade 3[b] or 3a”

Despite that comment, please note the pink coloured areas on the Dudley Stamp Land Use Inventory for the Gold’s Cross Hill site

Gold's Cross Hill Land Use

Gold's Cross Hill Land Use

See http://magic.defra.gov.uk/website/magic/viewer.htm?startTopic=maglandscape&xygridref=279292,92523&startScale=25000

The Site is Mainly Arable Land(cont.)

Recent site photographs clearly show the cereal crop currently being grown on the land:

Cereals in the Distance

Cereals in the Distance


Expert Opinions

Zero Carbon Britain – “On a larger scale, putting solar farms on prime agricultural land that could be used for food production is problematic.

See http://econnexus.org/a-brief-view-of-the-bowhay-farm-solar-pv-public-information-evening/

and http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/

David Green of the EcoIsland CIC, and Sustainability Executive of the Year– “Given the choice solar PV should be on roofs, not on arable land.

See http://www.eco-island.org/images/uploads/press/BusinessGreen_Leaders_Awards_-_David_Green_Announcement_-_04-07-2012.pdf

Solar PV “Efficiency”?

Efficiency in terms of incident solar energy converted into electrical energy is around 15%.

However please note the “Load factor”/“Capacity factor” statistics for renewable energy sources in the UK, recently released by DECC (Solar PV for the first time)

 

Technology 2009 2010 2011
Onshore wind 27.4% 21.7% 27.3%
Offshore wind 26.0% 30.4% 36.8%
Solar PV 9.3% 7.3% 5.5%
Hydro 36.7% 25.4% 39.1%
Bioenergy 54.9% 53.5% 43.1%


The Reality of “8 MW”

Even if we generously assume a 12% load factor that works out to 1 MW on average in practice.

According to Zero Carbon Britain – “[Solar PV] energy is generated primarily in the summer, which clashes with our peak consumption which is highest on long, sunless winter nights.

With no electricity storage on site, output of the proposed solar park will vary from zero on a long, sunless winter night to 8 MW on a sunny summer’s day, with an average of 1 MW at best.

Grid Load Balancing at Present

This variation between seasonal electricity demand and solar PV supply, plus intra-day variations, causes problems for the National Grid – “Unlike gas, electricity can’t be stored in large quantities. As a result, part of National Grid’s role involves making sure that demand and supply match up. We do this on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s a bit like trying to keep a car at 50mph while driving up and down hills.”

See http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/AboutElectricity/Balancing+the+network/

The majority of the 8 MW maximum output of the proposed solar park needs to be quickly available from an alternative source if the sun suddenly becomes hidden behind some heavy cloud.

Watch a video – http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/en//id/1401 – “[Storage] changes everything!”

In the UK this will typically be a gas fired power station running at less than full rated output by design.


The Future?

It’s unknown, but let’s examine “What might happen in 25 years time?”

What if the “Solar PV industry” collapses along with the subsidies?

What if the “industry” lives on, but is consolidated into the likes of EDF and E.ON?

What if an “efficient and economic” energy storage technology is developed, so that solar PV parks are no longer “50 acre white elephants”?

What if that technology happens to be pumped heat?

See http://www.v2g.co.uk/2012/06/isentropic-and-western-power-to-test-pumped-heat-electricity-storage/

Please note the Eden Project is investigating more “joined up” ways of handling these hugely important questions.

See http://econnexus.org/the-award-winning-eden-project-solar-pv-staff-share-scheme/

In Conclusion

Please take note of the NPPF paragraph 112 – “Local planning authorities should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of a higher quality.”

Please also take note of the Devon Structure Plan policy CO14 – Conserving Agricultural Land – “The use of agricultural land, particularly the best and most versatile agricultural land (grades 1, 2 and 3a), for any form of development not associated with agriculture or forestry should only be permitted where there is an over-riding need for development in that location which outweighs the need to protect such land or where it implements other policies and proposals of the Development Plan.


Finally

Finally please also take note of the Teignbridge Local Plan policy P1 on Agriculture – “Development of the best and most versatile agricultural land (MAFF grades 1, 2 and 3a) will only be permitted where there is a strong case for development on that site which overrides the need to protect such land. Where development is permitted on the best and most versatile agricultural land and there is a choice of sites, the lowest grade land suitable for the development will be used first.”

I invite you to join me in exercising your democratic right to vote to refuse this proposed development. In my professional opinion the “fine balance” is tipped against the proposal. The costs to sustainable development in this rural area if permission is granted are apparent, whilst the benefits (if any) are not.


Appendix A

15 Years Technical Expertise in Electricity Distribution

See http://www.v2g.co.uk/about-v2g/

Member of Regen SW

See http://www.regensw.co.uk/directory/?filter=quick&keywords=v2g

Smart Grid Consultant

Smart Grid = “An electrical grid that uses computers and other technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid

Appendix A (cont.)

Financial Information eXchange protocol working group on electrical energy pricing

See http://fixprotocol.org/working_groups/smartgrid/members

US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) PAP03 working group on the common specification for electrical energy pricing and product definition

NIST PAP09 working group on energy interoperation (Demand Response & Distributed Energy Resources)

See http://www.naesb.org/pdf4/smart_grid_ssd062410announcement.doc

Appendix B

Air Break Isolator near Exminster (Manual)

Air Break Isolator near Exminster

Air Break Isolator near Exminster

The Current UK “Smart Grid” (cont.)

Pole Mounted Recloser near Kennford

Pole Mounted Recloser near Kennford

Pole Mounted Recloser near Kennford

Current UK “Solar Farms”

Eastacombe Farm near Clawton

Eastacombe Farm near Clawton

Eastacombe Farm near Clawton

Current UK “Solar Farms” (cont.)

Great Knowle Farm near Pyworthy

Great Knowle Farm near Pyworthy

Great Knowle Farm near Pyworthy

Current UK “Solar Farms” (cont.)

This solar farm must have an 8 MW capable “Connection” to the National Grid

All solar farms must have “Protection”

All solar farms must have “Communication”

To be truly “Sustainable” solar farms desperately need “Energy Storage” as well.

Will all that fit into one “Big Green Box?”

Gold’s Cross Hill Solar PV Park
Objections to the proposalfromJim Hunt
V2G LimitedWho Am I?
Technical Director of V2G Limited
V2G is short for “Vehicle to Grid” (Small scale electricity storage. Nissan Leaf = 24 kWh)
I have decades of experience in the automation of electricity distribution.See Appendix A for more information
Why’s That Relevant?
In brief, I help keep your lights on!
I help keep the lights on in places like Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone too.
Solar parks need a lot of that sort of technology as well. A fact that never seems to get mentioned by their proposers.
“Sustainability” of renewable energy projects, especially solar “farms”, requires “grid level energy storage”, which doesn’t currently exist at sufficient scale (1 MW for 1 Day = 24,000 kWh).
Electrical energy storage never seems to get mentioned by developers either.See Appendix B for more information
Planning Guidelines?
From paragraph 3.19 of your officer’s report before you – “NPPF introduces the presumption in favour of sustainable development”
From paragraph 3.38 of that report – “The proposal is considered to be finely balanced”
From the Ministerial foreword to the NPPF – “Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations”.
“Sustainable development is about change for the better, and not only in our built environment. Our natural environment is essential to our wellbeing, and it can be better looked after than it has been.”
Let’s look more closely at how “sustainable” this particular proposed PV “development” really is.
Food Security versus Energy Security?
The Realities of Solar PV!
The Site is Mainly Arable Land
From paragraph 3.2 of the report in front of you – “There can be no certainty about whether [the land] is Grade 3[b] or 3a”
Despite that comment, please note the pink coloured areas on the Dudley Stamp Land Use Inventory for the Gold’s Cross Hill site
The Site is Mainly Arable Land (cont.)
Recent site photographs clearly show the cereal crop currently being grown on the land:

Expert Opinions
Zero Carbon Britain – “On a larger scale, putting solar farms on prime agricultural land that could be used for food production is problematic.”
See http://econnexus.org/a-brief-view-of-the-bowhay-farm-solar-pv-public-information-evening/
and http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/

David Green of the EcoIsland CIC, and Sustainability Executive of the Year – “Given the choice solar PV should be on roofs, not on arable land.”
See http://www.eco-island.org/images/uploads/press/BusinessGreen_Leaders_Awards_-_David_Green_Announcement_-_04-07-2012.pdf
Solar PV “Efficiency”?
Efficiency in terms of incident solar energy converted into electrical energy is around 15%.
However please note the “Load factor”/“Capacity factor” statistics for renewable energy sources in the UK, recently released by DECC (Solar PV for the first time)
The Reality of “8 MW”
Even if we generously assume a 12% load factor that works out to 1 MW on average in practice.
According to Zero Carbon Britain – “[Solar PV] energy is generated primarily in the summer, which clashes with our peak consumption which is highest on long, sunless winter nights.”
With no electricity storage on site, output of the proposed solar park will vary from zero on a long, sunless winter night to 8 MW on a sunny summer’s day, with an average of 1 MW at best.

Grid Load Balancing at Present
This variation between seasonal electricity demand and solar PV supply, plus intra-day variations, causes problems for the National Grid – “Unlike gas, electricity can’t be stored in large quantities. As a result, part of National Grid’s role involves making sure that demand and supply match up. We do this on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s a bit like trying to keep a car at 50mph while driving up and down hills.”
See http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/AboutElectricity/Balancing+the+network/

The majority of the 8 MW maximum output of the proposed solar park needs to be quickly available from an alternative source if the sun suddenly becomes hidden behind some heavy cloud.
Watch a video – http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/en//id/1401 – “[Storage] changes everything!”

In the UK this will typically be a gas fired power station running at less than full rated output by design.
The Future?
It’s unknown, but let’s examine “What might happen in 25 years time?”
What if the “Solar PV industry” collapses along with the subsidies?
What if the “industry” lives on, but is consolidated into the likes of EDF and E.ON?
What if an “efficient and economic” energy storage technology is developed, so that solar PV parks are no longer “50 acre white elephants”?
What if that technology happens to be pumped heat?
See http://www.v2g.co.uk/2012/06/isentropic-and-western-power-to-test-pumped-heat-electricity-storage/
Please note the Eden Project is investigating more “joined up” ways of handling these hugely important questions.
See http://econnexus.org/the-award-winning-eden-project-solar-pv-staff-share-scheme/
In Conclusion
Please take note of the NPPF paragraph 112 – “Local planning authorities should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of a higher quality.”
Please also take note of the Devon Structure Plan policy CO14 – Conserving Agricultural Land – “The use of agricultural land, particularly the best and most versatile agricultural land (grades 1, 2 and 3a), for any form of development not associated with agriculture or forestry should only be permitted where there is an over-riding need for development in that location which outweighs the need to protect such land or where it implements other policies and proposals of the Development Plan.

Finally
Finally please also take note of the Teignbridge Local Plan policy P1 on Agriculture – “Development of the best and most versatile agricultural land (MAFF grades 1, 2 and 3a) will only be permitted where there is a strong case for development on that site which overrides the need to protect such land. Where development is permitted on the best and most versatile agricultural land and there is a choice of sites, the lowest grade land suitable for the development will be used first.”

I invite you to join me in exercising your democratic right to vote to refuse this proposed development. In my professional opinion the “fine balance” is tipped against the proposal. The costs to sustainable development in this rural area if permission is granted are apparent, whilst the benefits (if any) are not.

Appendix A
15 Years Technical Expertise in Electricity Distribution
See http://www.v2g.co.uk/about-v2g/
Member of Regen SW
See http://www.regensw.co.uk/directory/?filter=quick&keywords=v2g
Smart Grid Consultant
Smart Grid = “An electrical grid that uses computers and other technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity”
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid

Appendix A (cont.)
Financial Information eXchange protocol working group on electrical energy pricing
See http://fixprotocol.org/working_groups/smartgrid/members
US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) PAP03 working group on the common specification for electrical energy pricing and product definition
NIST PAP09 working group on energy interoperation (Demand Response & Distributed Energy Resources)
See http://www.naesb.org/pdf4/smart_grid_ssd062410announcement.doc

Appendix B
Air Break Isolator near Exminster (Manual)
The Current UK “Smart Grid” (cont.)
Pole Mounted Recloser near Kennford
Current UK “Solar Farms”
Eastacombe Farm near Clawton
Current UK “Solar Farms” (cont.)
Great Knowle Farm near Pyworthy
Current UK “Solar Farms” (cont.)
This solar farm must have an 8 MW capable “Connection” to the National Grid
All solar farms must have “Protection”
All solar farms must have “Communication”
To be truly “Sustainable” solar farms desperately need “Energy Storage” as well.
Will all that fit into one “Big Green Box?”

17 thoughts on “One Objection to the Gold’s Cross Hill Solar PV Park in Devon

  1. That was a most interesting experience. It took me at least one out of my allotted five minutes to establish that I would need to make my presentation sitting down, instead of standing up as I had assumed, and would have preferred.

    I’d only got about halfway through my printed out PowerPoint slides by the time the buzzer went, but the Chairman and my co-objector graciously allowed me to overrun briefly. However it seems at least some of the councillors had read the version I emailed to them last night. At the end of the debate the committee members voted by pressing buttons from their own seats, and the verdict was announced.

    The proposal was rejected by a ratio of 3:1, on the grounds of an “Adverse impact on Area of Great Landscape Value”. The first of many battles is over, but others are looming. I was informed by my district councillor that another similar application in Kenton/Starcross is on the way.

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  4. Thanks for your kind words Kasia.

    A somewhat Pyrrhic victory however. Unfortunately in all the circumstances “joined up” and “sustainable” large scale solar PV (or wind for that matter) really requires “grid scale storage” on the ground, in South West England, today. This proposal made no mention of that fact. Not that I could discern at least, given the limited time available to me.

    Jim

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  6. Hi Jim…Myself and other locals are in the same position as yourself..
    A proposed solar park at the rear of our cottages(opposite Bristol Airport)..
    The local parish council has a meeting this coming Thursday(4th oct)which we will all be attending..The proposed builder has entered an application to have the land downgraded from agricultural so as to build..
    Just come across your presentation whilst searching the web for ways to object to this..Superb..Would welcome any help you could throw our way?

  7. Hi Kelvin,

    Thanks for your kind words!

    Would I be correct in assuming that this is the Garley’s Wood Solar Park you are referring to? If so then I have the screening opinion documents, but I can’t seem to locate the planning application on the North Somerset web site. Do you have the planning reference number by any chance?

    You will note that the application for a solar park near Tedburn St. Mary was rejected for reasons of “Adverse impact on Area of Great Landscape Value”, and not for “agricultural” reasons. The developers have now appealed that decision, and also applied for a slightly smaller scheme on the same site.

    Cheers,

    Jim

  8. Dear Jim,

    Thank you for putting your objection on the internet, I wish I could understand it at this time of night, now the children are in bed our objection planning begins!

    I am a concerned resident of Knapp near North Curry Taunton and a solar photovoltaic farm comprising of 6,270 panels rated at up to 1.8mw and covering an area of 4.7 hectares complete with infrastructure, inverter, transformer, cctv cameras and fence is proposed on used agricultural land close to the rear of residential properties in our hamlet, Taunton Deane Borough Council application number 24/12/0039 refers.

    I don’t wish to burden you, but would welcome any advice to object to the proposed solar farm.
    As a objection group we are using local plans and policies to object to the proposal as well as the fact that the ground is not flat and there is a local flooding risk.

    Kindest regards

    Vince Jeffery, Christmas Cottage, Knapp

  9. Hi Vince,

    As noted above, an appeal has been lodged against the Teignbridge District Council decision to reject the planning application for the Fulford Solar Park. The outcome of that appeal remains to be seen!

    The best I can suggest in the short term is to read the local planning guidance carefully and see if there are any specific policies regarding large scale solar PV. You could also try to find someone who fancies working the Geographical Information System kindly provided by DEFRA at http://magic.defra.gov.uk/website/magic/. Choose the “Landscape” topic, then see what you can discover about the landscape and agricultural land classification around you.

    A quick glance at the application form suggests that in this instance Lightsource RE didn’t seek any prior advice from the Taunton Deane planning department before making their application. Is that correct, and did they engage in any prior “community consultation” either?

    I hope that’s of some modest help.

    Jim

  10. Hi,
    Having searched the internet looking for valid reasons to opose a new PV array, I came across your presentation. It made for very interesting reading indeed, although I am not totally clued up on the Solar farms it has been planned that a small farm will be placed in the heart of a tiny village of Caunton in a field behind where we live (subject to the planning consent of Newark and Sherwood DC) It is the first I have heard of such developements being placed in the Nottinghamshire area, so we are obviously concerned as to why such a plan may go ahead.

    In your presentation you stated that there would be a significantly low amount of electricity generated. Which I then wonder why such a small solar array would be beneficial? Unless the landowner is considering using all the agricultural field at a later date. I have also read that solar panels are better used on houses than farms?

    Any help you could send my way would be greatly appreciated, we are attending a Council meeting on Wed night and Im trying to collate as much info as possible.

    Thank you and kindest regards

    Nina Milne

  11. Hello Nina,

    My own primary objection to large scale solar parks concerns the “industrialisation” of what planning guidelines refer to as “the best and most versatile” agricultural land. Solar panels on the roof of a home or business do produce some electricity, and don’t prevent such land from growing food for human consumption.

    As I mentioned to Vince in a previous comment, the best I can suggest is try and discover what planning guidelines in your own area have to say on these issues. Here’s a new website that takes you through the process of getting to grips with the rules and regulations, albeit those that apply in my own area of the country:

    http://www.bowhaysolarfarm.info

    Jim

  12. Thanks for posting this Jim. Like many others it would seem, our village is also about to have to deal with a proposed solar farm. It would seem that West Somerset is rich pickings for this sort of development, despite being one of the most beautiful places in the country.
    We’d be very grateful of some advice, and I wonder if I could drop you a line in the future once we’ve done further research.
    Congratulations on your result !
    Nick.

  13. Hi Nick,

    By all means drop me a line. A quick search of the West Somerset web site revealed no new large scale solar planning applications to me. Is this anything to do with the earlier EIA screening enquiry near Monksilver?

    Thanks for your good wishes. Bear in mind, however, that this particular solar “farm” is currently going through its second appeal against refusal of planning permission.

    P.S. Assuming that “Alelr Farm” is a mere typo, it looks like this is in fact the relevant planning application, although it is yet to be validated.

  14. Jim, Very interested to read your presentation and headings under which you objected. Only just getting started with trying to understand the process that seems to be pushing these developments through following initial proposals near us in Cumbria.
    see http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/10478056.Solar_panel_park_proposal_for_Furness/

    As a engineer (chemical) there seems to be precious little balanced argument on the subject or real facts about output and availability factor. Many people do not understand the difference in quoting instantaneous MW output vs. MWhr over a period. Often they quote “enough power for 2,500 homes” – is there an accepted industry average for annual MWhr for a home? Such measures ignore all the facts that the power is typically generated when domestic use is low.

    regards,
    Mike

  15. Hi Mike,

    Sometimes even the developers don’t seem to understand the difference between MW and MWh! Note that this time last year my own reasons for objecting seemed to carry no “planning” weight in the decision to refuse the application, which was because of “Adverse impact on an AGLV”.

    However that may be about to change somewhat. See Greg Barker’s recent speech over on my “non professional” blog, where there’s lots of other relevant material to peruse too.

    For MWh per average home per annum, the DECC section of the new UK Government web site contains all sorts of relevant statistics. See for example this document.

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