Penpergwm

Solar Farm

Welcome

Renewable Connections is investigating the potential for  solar energy farm up to 32MW on land at Penpergwm, approximately 4km southeast of Abergavenny.  Once operational, the project would significantly contribute to Welsh targets to net zero emissions by 2030, by producing enough electricity to power approximately 8,093 homes and save an estimated 14,080 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Following extensive community and stakeholder consultation in 2020 and 2021, Renewable Connections submitted a formal application to Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW), the Welsh Government department responsible for major infrastructure projects on 25th January 2022.  The application was formally accepted on 17th February 2022, after which PEDW initiated a period of formal consultation on the application, which has now closed. The application is now in the examination stage with the variation submission stage up until 23rd May 2022. The formal dates of hearings are to be confirmed once the Planning Inspectorate has reviewed thee variation submission documents.

The application can be viewed on the PEDW website Reference: DNS/3252305 – Penpergwm Solar Farm Planning Casework (gov.wales) The application reference is DNS/3252305.

Quick Facts

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14,080 tonnes of CO2 saved annually*

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Equivalent annual energy needs of 8,093 homes**

38 hectares of land enhanced for native wildlife

* (Calculated using BEIS’s “all fossil fuels” emissions statistic of 446 tonnes of carbon dioxide per GWh of electricity supplied in the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (July 2020)

** (Calculated using the most recent statistics from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showing that annual GB average domestic household consumption is 3,578kWh)

Location

Renewable Connections has identified a site located on land at Penpergwm, approximately 4km southeast of Abergavenny in Wales.  The site comprises 14 agricultural fields and extends to an area of approximately 70.17 hectares (ha).  Approximately 31.4 ha of the site will comprise solar infrastructure with the remainder to be used for a mixture of green infrastructure, biodiversity enhancements and continued livestock grazing, without detriment to the overall agricultural productivity of the farm holding.

The Application Site benefits from having an appropriate and already approved connection from the district network operator  to an overhead power line with available capacity for a solar project. It is not contained within any environmental designations, and comprises sufficient land to allow a project which is sympathetic to the site constraints whilst delivering a viable renewable energy generation scheme.

Our Proposals

The layout of the site has been designed to avoid those areas which are most visible from the wider landscape including Brecon Beacons National Park.  As a consequence, the site is split into three smaller areas, each of which is contained within the existing landform and will be screened to minimise impact on the landscape.

The site will not create issues with noise or flood risk, whilst the temporary and limited operational traffic will operate in synergy with the existing agricultural business.  The landowner currently operates a sheep farm and grazing will continue within the array once the solar farm is operational.

Following a maximum 40-year generation period, the proposed development will enter into a decommissioning stage where all equipment will be removed from the site and recycled, and all the land will be restored to its current state and use.

The project will  include a range of green infrastructure measures and a biodiversity management plan which will provide a substantial net gain in biodiversity.  These  include:

– a community orchard and seating area created at the highest point within the site;

– proposed wildflower meadows throughout the site linking to existing footpaths;

– adding new tree belts to screen views from the west hedgerow planting;

– reinforcing existing hedgerows to promote species diversity and green corridor;

– planting of new hedgerows;

– installing bat and bird boxes throughout the farm;

– bee banks, badger gates, dormice nests, reptile hibernacula and invertebrate hotels will also be constructed;

– enhancement of existing footpaths and addition of new, safeguarded routes over 40 years.

If installed, the solar farm will have a capacity of up to 32MW and will be operational for up to forty years. After the time, all of the installation will be removed and the land restored to how it was before, but with improved soil health and biodiversity. The electricity generated will be exported to the grid via a small substation that will connect into an overhead line and be distributed through the National Grid . No new pylons will be necessary to facilitate the connection.

The solar panels will be installed in rows which run east to west through the site. These rows will be tilted towards the south to capture the maximum amount of solar irradiation possible. The total height of the panels will be no more than 2.75m above the ground with a gap of more than 0.8m above the ground at its minimum.

Project timeline

Stage 1

Site selection
Autumn 2020

Stage 2

Preliminary Surveys
Autumn 2020

Stage 3

Pre-application
Winter 2021/ 2022

Stage 4

Community Consultation (formal)
Summer 2021

Stage 5

Submission
Winter 2021/ 2022

Stage 6

Construction
2024+

The need for the project

Following the Government’s declaration of an “Environment and Climate Emergency” in May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised that to meet ‘Net Zero’ targets, the UK will require substantial amounts of new, low carbon power sources to be built before 2050, up to four times that of today’s levels.

The Welsh Government has stated that achieving decarbonisation and climate resilience as a key national priority for Wales.  Planning policy recognises the need for Wales to focus on generating clean, green energy and has targeted 70% of consumed electricity from renewable means by 2030.  This can only be achieved by urgent deployment of low-cost renewables, including solar.

Solar is one of the cleanest, lowest cost forms of energy available. Penpergwn Solar Farm would make a meaningful contribution to Wales energy needs by delivering green energy to over 8,093 homes annually. the project would save an estimated 14,080 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted annually. As well as removing the equivalent of approximately 10,357 cars off of UK roads.

FAQ’s

Why Solar?

Following the UK Government’s declaration of an “Environment and Climate Emergency” in May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised that to meet ‘Net Zero’ targets, the UK will require substantial amounts of new, low carbon power sources to be built before 2050, up to four times that of today’s levels.

Monmouthshire County Council declared their own Climate Emergency in May 2019 and have since produced a Climate and Decarbonisation Strategy document which commits the council to the following policies:

  • Strive to reduce its own carbon emissions to Net Zero in line with the Welsh Government target of 2030;
  • Encourage and support residents and businesses to take their own actions to reduce their carbon emissions;
  • Work with partners across the county and other councils and organisations to help develop and implement best practice methods in limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C.

Why this location?

This site has been identified following extensive site selection across Abergavenny which took into account environmental designations, local electricity network access and capacity, the physical characteristics of the site, and a supportive landowner

Will there be any impacts on local roads?

Increased traffic volumes will be generated during the construction and decommissioning phases, however overall volume of traffic generated by the solar farm once it is operating will be low.

Traffic during construction will be managed via a Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) which will put in place measures to include.

 

  • Deliveries managed to avoid peak times
  • Use of banksman to manage vehicles entering and exiting the site
  • We would look to break up HGV loads into smaller loads suitable to the local roads
  • Spreading deliveries across the construction period to avoid peaks.

It is anticipated that the site would be accessed from the B4598 via a local road running from Penpergwm. An existing entrance to the farm will be upgraded to allow construction access. You will be able to view out CTMP on our application.

Will there be any permanent impact?

Solar farms are temporary and the land will be fully reinstated to farmland once the equipment is removed at the end of the project life.

Does solar pose a health risk?

No – solar is a passive technology which doesn’t produce any harmful by-products.

How long will the project be there?

The development proposes a life span of up to 40 years. No later than this, the development would be decommissioned, and the site returned to solely agricultural use. A decommissioning plan will be provided with the planning submission.

Are solar farms noisy?

No – solar farms are not noisy, producing no more than normal background levels of sound similar to wind or distant traffic beyond the site boundary.

What are the benefits to the local community?

Renewable Connections is committed to maximising benefits for the local Community. The project will support local businesses, provide enhanced business rates, and provide enhancements to wildlife. We will also establish a Community Benefit Fund of around £74,000 to be made available to the host community and will also be making a portion of the project available for local people or organisations to invest in.

Will this project require subsidy?

In the past, renewable energy has been expensive, and solar and wind projects have required public subsidies to make these projects commercially viable. Many people believe that still to be the case. However, due to the rapid reduction in cost of solar, projects like the Penpergwm Solar Farm can be built without any subsidy and at a cheaper cost than conventional generation.

How would the solar farm connect to the grid?

The solar farm would be connected, via a substation to an existing 132 KV overhead power line that crosses the site. No additional infrastructure would be visible outside of the fence surrounding the solar farm.

Why develop on agricultural land?

Solar farms do not lead to the permanent loss of agricultural soils. The land can even continue to be used for agriculture, in the form of sheep grazing, once the solar farm is constructed. Given that this farm is already used for sheep grazing, the land would be a dual use. At the end of the life of the solar farm, the land will be returned to solely agricultural use. National and local planning policies allow for the development of renewable energy within the countryside, including the use of greenfield sites or agricultural land.

Are there brownfield alternatives?

Brownfield land of this scale is seldom available for solar and typically any brownfield land is located within or on the edge of urban areas where the policy presumption prioritises residential or commercial developments. Solar generation requires unobstructed and direct exposure to sunlight. Rural locations are less likely to be constrained or overshadowed by existing developments that would impede the function of a solar farm in built up areas. For greenfield sites, proposals should aim to use poorer quality agricultural land in preference to higher quality land. This is not always possible due to the feasibility process in selecting solar sites. Our planning application is supported by an Agricultural Land Classification Survey Report to determine the quality and grading on specific areas of a site. This has identified the project is a mix of grade 2, 3a and 3b.

Would existing footpaths which cross the site be permanently closed?

There are Public Right of Way’s (PROW) within and around the edges of the Site and the internal site access tracks would be designed so that these PROW’s can remain open at all times and be kept clear of any development with a buffer zone either side of the PROWs. Education boards would be sited along the rights of way to give information about the project to people utilising the paths. In addition, we are proposing the creation of a new footpath through our wildflower meadow area.

To what extent have Great House Energy Centre considered a community ownership model?

Great House Energy Centre is aware of the Welsh Government’s commitment for 1GW of renewable energy capacity in Wales to be locally owned by 2030. While policy on how renewable energy developers can meet this objective has yet to be formally published, Great House Energy Centre is working with our delivery partner European Energy to develop a community ownership offering to allow local people to invest in stake of the project. This is both in response to the Welsh Government’s draft policy statement for local ownership and also feedback we have received from local people who are interested in such an offering.

Great House Energy Centre is excited to share further details of our proposals when we formally submit our application later in 2021. We will also be detailing our community benefit offering which will be made available to the local community close to the project.

How will access be obtained to the site and will any enhancements be required to access the road to achieve this?

Access to the site will be from the south via Penpergwm. Vehicles would then travel along approximately 750m of the local road. We are proposing all deliveries will use an existing farm entrance to the south of the site to limit any construction traffic on the local road network. The existing access has been assessed for its suitability and discussions with Monmouthshire County Council Highways Department has confirmed the appropriateness of this entrance.

Great House Energy Centre has prepared a draft Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) which can be viewed here. This will detail how deliveries to the site will be managed during construction to limit disruption to other road users.

In terms of operation of the site, access requirements will be limited to infrequent maintenance visits by vans. There should be no material increase in traffic from vehicles using this area at present.

Get in touch

penpergwmsolar@renewableconnections.co.uk
Telephone:  01873 740220

Penpergwm Solar c/o Pegasus Group
First Floor, South Wing, Equinox North, Great Park Road,
Bristol,
BS32 4QL

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