Welsh energy, planning and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths granted consent for the Gwent Farmers Community Solar Scheme, which will comprise the installation of a solar farm with up to 250,000 solar panels with a capacity to generate 49.9MW of energy, plus 200 battery storage units.
The project is the first renewable energy scheme to receive planning permission as a Development of National Significance under the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which grants ministers the power to decide on energy schemes of between ten and 50MW.
The site is south of the former Llanwern steelworks near Newport, on land owned by local farmers. The scheme’s backers say it will enable the landowners to diversify their agricultural enterprise and enhance the biodiversity of the area.
The scheme would be located on land designated as a site of special scientific interest. But Griffiths decided that the proposal "would not result in significant harm to the ecological, landscape or historic interests of the site or area."
"Any minor harm is more than justified by the significant renewable energy benefits which would arise from the proposed scheme," said Griffiths.
According to the inspector's report, the scheme's generation of 49.9MW of power would be "sufficient to power 15,000 homes and prevent the release of 21,000 tonnes of CO2 per year".
"This is an excellent result for the future of renewable energy production in Wales," said Nick Beddoe, senior planner at Savills, planning consultants for the scheme.
"We expect the scheme to save over 21,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, which will make a significant contribution towards the stringent energy targets set out by the Welsh Government."
"Not only does the scheme make good use of the existing infrastructure previously used to service heavy industry, it will support the future prosperity of the local farming community through diversification," said Beddoe.