Solarcentury to build ‘UK’s most environmentally-friendly solar farm’

Composting toilets, biodiesel generators and a car sharing scheme for staff will all be features of a new 48MW solar farm which developers say will set the 'highest environmental standards ever for a ground-mounted solar installation'.

Solarcentury and Primrose Solar have teamed up to design and construct the solar farm on Grade 4 agricultural land near Portsmouth in Hampshire, with environmental considerations incorporated throughout its planning, construction and operational lifetime.

The impact of the solar farm’s construction has been minimised through the implementation of various green initiatives. These include using biodiesel generators to cut carbon emissions; transporting contractors living within five miles to the site in mini buses; and reducing landfill by recycling all food waste, packaging and general site waste.

New initiatives

Any broken and discarded panels will be recycled in line with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations; local food companies will be brought on-site for lunch to minimise traffic movements – workers will enjoy ‘Pasty Wednesday’ – and Solarcentury will monitor weekly where waste is going to be recycled and how much is leaving the site.

Solarcentury chief executive Frans van den Heuvel explained that the new initiatives being implemented at this solar farm could lay the foundations for other installations in the future.

“Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar’s continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site,” said Van den Heuvel. “Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we’re looking to roll out across all of our future sites.”

Once the solar farm is connected, composting toilets will remain on-site for visitors to use, and a range of ecological measures will be implemented to enhance local wildlife, including the planting of wildflowers using native seed mixes and bird and bat boxes being installed.

The project will also adhere to the Solar Trade Association (STA) 10 commitments – best practice for solar farms.

Solarcentury’s 10 commitments

  • We will focus on non-agricultural land or land which is of lower agricultural quality. 
  • We will be sensitive to nationally and locally protected landscapes and nature conservation areas, and we welcome opportunities to enhance the ecological value of the land. 
  • We will minimise visual impact where possible and maintain appropriate screening throughout the lifetime of the project managed through a Land Management and/or Ecology plan. 
  • We will engage with the community in advance of submitting a planning application. 
  • We will encourage land diversification by proposing continued agricultural use or incorporating biodiversity measures within our projects. 
  • We will do as much buying and employing locally as possible. 
  • We will act considerately during construction, and demonstrate ‘solar stewardship’ of the land for the lifetime of the project. 
  • We will seek the support of the local community and listen to their views and suggestions. 
  • We commit to using the solar farm as an educational opportunity, where appropriate. 
  • At the end of the project life we will return the land to its former use.

Giles Clark, the chief executive of Primrose Solar – which will own and operate the solar farm – said: “We are excited about setting a new environmental standard for building Southwick solar farm, working together with Solarcentury, a perfect choice for the build because of our shared values.

“And this is just the start. We’re in this for the long term. For the next 25 years, Primrose wants to be a ‘good neighbour’; supporting the local community and working with the landowner to demonstrate responsible stewardship of the land for the lifetime of the solar farm.”

Construction of the power plant will commence this month and the farm is expected to start generating electricity for the grid by the end of March 2015.

Last month the STA, in partnership with the BRE National Solar Centre and the National Farmers Union (NFU), produced new guidance which explains how conventional agriculture and ground-mounted solar electricity generation can be coupled for the mutual benefit of both. It explained that solar farms are often used for the grazing of sheep and can be particularly suited to the fattening of young, hill-bred lambs.

Click here to view edie’s interactive map of other remarkable solar farms around the world.

Lois Vallely

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