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Protest over solar panel farm plan just outside Exeter

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 15, 2012

By Tom Bevan

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OPPOSITION is mounting against plans to build one of the largest solar panel farms in the UK on land just outside Exeter.

Renewable energy company Lightsource has applied for planning permission for a solar array on three adjacent fields totalling 21.7 hectares at Bowhay Farm, in Shillingford Abbot.

It would consist of 43,680 photovoltaic panels – one of the largest in the UK – and will sit alongside the road from Ide to Dunchideock.

The land is currently used for grazing stock and is regarded as a local beauty spot.

A decision on the application will be made by Teignbridge District Council and the developers said it provide the energy to power 3,200 typical family homes a year and argued such diversification of farms was key to avoid land being sold off.

A packed crowd turned out for a meeting of Shillingford St George Parish Council this week to discuss the issue, with one of the protesters estimating at least 100 people were present with the vast majority there to object.

Campaigners said they feel the proposal is "disproportionately large, insensitively positioned, and will rob the country of valuable arable production just as worldwide food shortages start to push up food prices".

Their spokesman described it as "the wrong scale, in the wrong place and on the wrong type of land".

"It is in a location which is clearly visible from many important vantage points, beauty spots, national trunk roads and busy local roads, meaning that it will be seen by many tens of thousands of people each year," they added.

"It is of an industrial nature which is out of keeping with the characteristic features of the surrounding countryside; it will be built on some of the best food-producing land in Devon, thus reducing the supply of crops at a time of increasing worldwide food shortages."

The group argue that construction of the site will involve around 200 HGV lorry trips along stretches of the busy Ide/Dunchideock road, and along narrow country roads.

"During the four months of construction, around 40 workers will need to access the site. However, the finished array will operate unattended, so the development will not create any local permanent jobs," the spokesman added.

"Our aim is to keep local people and organisations informed about the proposal so their views, concerns and local knowledge can be fully taken into account. We are not against solar energy (quite the opposite), but this proposal is just too big and in the wrong place."

A spokesman for the developer said in its application to the council it was proposing to install solar modules covering approximately 7.6ha of land with gaps in-between the rows to avoid them shading each other.

"The design has been prepared to maximise energy production within the available area of land, taking into account the site specific constraints," they said.

"The purpose of the development is to convert daylight into electricity. This solar development will have a generation capacity of approximately 10.7 megawatts, which is enough to power more than 3,200 typical family homes.

"About half of all UK farms undertake some form of activity that is outside of the core business of farming.

"Diversification can result in a more productive use of part of the farm estate; can provide a constant form of income to the farm as a balance to the traditional fluctuations in farm incomes, this can then be reinvested in farming activities.

"Diversification into renewable energy will increase farm income security. Moreover, it can serve to protect the farming tradition by obviating the incentive, seen increasingly often on farms, to sell parcels of land to maintain income for the benefit of the remainder of the holding.

"The solar installation will have a life of approximately 25 years, after which time the development will be decommissioned and the land returned to its original condition."

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  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 16 2012, 11:49PM

    Hi Tufty, I couldn't agree more about the "rain drenched summers". See for example: http://tinyurl.com/budebugs I agree about all the interdependent factors also. However that still doesn't mean I think the Bowhay Farm project is a really cunning plan. Amongst other factors, how well do you suppose a large scale solar PV "farm" works during a typical "rain drenched summer" in South West England?

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  • tuftyaurelius  |  November 16 2012, 11:32PM

    Solar energy makes complete sense compared with other forms of renewabke energy! Of course there is a worldwide food shortage and factors are INTERDEPENDENT! Freak, rain-drenched summers due largely to climate change caused by global warmng and the excessive use of fossil fuels by the UK and others mean that all of us need to think carefully of using fossil fuel driven technology including electricity generating power stations. Of course we should all be growing more cereals, fruit and vegetables as vegetarianism is a healthier and more suitable choice for **** sapiens but a balnce needs to be struck between using arable land and devoting less arable land e.g. landfill sites to solar power generation?

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  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 16 2012, 9:24PM

    Any chance we can tone down the name calling that generally litters these "debates"? In this case Tufty, there is no dairy farming involved. The proposal involves turning 54 acres of grade 2 agricultural land, which was happily growing cereals this summer, over to tens of thousands of solar panel plus a few sheep. As Rover points out, the UK currently imports around 40% of its food and our wheat prices are higher than they've ever been. In light of that information, do you still think that "solar energy makes complete sense" in this instance?

  • roverdale  |  November 16 2012, 7:40PM

    What stupidity from tuftyaurelius. There is more to farming in Devon than dairy farming. There is a world wide shortage of grain of all kinds. Bread is set to rocket shortly. We are not self suffient in all kinds of food.

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  • tuftyaurelius  |  November 16 2012, 7:24PM

    Capturing solar energy makes complete sense. Better than ugly and noisy windfarms, hydroelectric dams etc So why the Devonian stupidity, kneejerk negativity and inbred intransigence for such schemes. Do we actually need MORE dairy farming to cause even mor lactose intolerance in humans?

  • roverdale  |  November 16 2012, 6:50PM

    The profit as many people will realise later, is in the grant. Where does the grant come from? It grows on trees. And Tom Bevan has told everyone it is in Shillingford Abbot, when it is nearer Dunchideock.

  • roverdale  |  November 16 2012, 6:48PM

    The profit as many people will realise later, is in the grant. Where does the grant come from? It grows on trees.

  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 16 2012, 8:40AM

    To correct an inaccurate implication in your comment Shaynerer. If the design and access statement is to be believed, the proposal involves: "Pouring the concrete base for the cabinets" but merely: "Piling the frames into the ground" to support the solar panels themselves.

  • Shaynerer  |  November 15 2012, 10:16PM

    Subsidized insanity, transferring our money paid for electricity bills into easy money earners for rich landowners and concreteing over the countryside at the same time.

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  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 15 2012, 3:31PM

    To correct one inaccuracy in this article, the land in question is not "currently used for grazing stock". I wonder where your reporter gained that impression?

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