Cornwall council approves solar farm

Planning permission has been granted for the UK’s first purpose-built solar farm, a decision that could give the green light for a wave of commercial solar-power developments across the country.

Located on the south facing site of the former Wheal Jane tin mine near Truro in Cornwall, the £4m 1.3MW solar farm will house around 6,000 individual panels, each measuring 1.8m x 1m and laid out on galvanised steel fixed tilt frames. The grid connection is already in place, thanks to the power line from which the old mill drew its energy.

The company behind the project is 35 Degrees – a venture set up to promote, build and manage 100MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) plant through a series of individually financed projects.

The firm drew on the expertise of engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong to successfully secure planning permission from the Cornwall council for the new solar farm.

The 12-month process involved the consultancy in pre-consultation, screening and scoping, feasibility including specific studies on glint, glare and ecology, a full environmental impact assessment, planning submission and post submission consultation.

The stimulus for 35 Degrees to develop the solar farm has come from the feed-in tariff (FiT), a new energy policy mechanism that came into force in April 2010.

Under FiT, businesses and individuals producing ’green’ electricity receive a generation tariff (paid by an electricity company) for everything they generate, plus an export tariff for everything they feed back to the grid – as high as 41.3p/kWh and 3p/kWh respectively in the case of small-scale solar PV.