Cornwall backs 'landmark' solar farm

Cornwall County Council has granted planning permission for the UK's first purpose-built solar farm.

Located on the south facing site of the former Wheal Jane tin mine near Truro in Cornwall, the £4m solar farm will house around 6,000 individual panels, each measuring just 1.8m x 1m and laid out on galvanised steel fixed tilt frames.

It will have a peak generating capacity of 1.3MW, providing enough electricity to power 287 average Cornish homes.

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

The company, which described the move as "a landmark decision that could give the green light for a wave of commercial solar power developments across the country", was advised by Wardell Armstrong.

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.

Cornwall County Council, keen to see their county become the UK leader in the generation of solar energy, supported  the idea from the start through their natural resources team who deal with minerals and renewables applications.

The Wheal Jane location - a brownfield area on the site of a former mill used by the tin mine - is the first one to be chosen by 35° and is intended as a proof of concept before further sites are developed.

The grid connection is already in place, thanks to the power line from which the old mill drew its energy. While its capacity will be limited to 1.3 MW, most future sites are likely to be up to 5MW.

The company said a major advantage of PV solar power is its low visibility and minimal impact on the environment, with frames around 1.6m tall.

Plans are in place to landscape and enhance the area with a local grass mix to encourage and provide a natural habitat for rare species such as grass snakes, slow worms, lizards and barn owls.

Managing director Stephen McCabe said: "This is the first major milestone for the UK in directly harvesting the inexhaustible energy of the sun to address major issues such as energy stability and carbon reduction. 

"It’s also the first building block in bringing a new growth industry to Cornwall and the UK. We’re excited to be leading the way in this venture."

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