Essex: Give solar panels a chance, says energy boss


- Credit: PA

The boss of a company planning to roll out a series of solar farms in rural locations across north Essex has urged communities to give the technology a chance.

Stuart Bradshaw, the chief executive of Push Energy, based in Great Horkesley, near Colchester, says people must get used to the idea of solar farms because over the next few years they will become a common sight.

There will be up to 3,000 in the south of England by 2020 to enable the Government to meet legal obligations to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 15%.

Push Energy currently has 11 solar farm projects in the pipeline for the region, which in total would generate 160 megaWatts of electricity – enough to power up to 40,000 homes.

Six of these schemes are planned for sites in Essex - Little Clacton, Langenhoe, Boxted Airfield, Gosfield, Stisted and Pentlow.

Mr Bradshaw said there has been a big move towards solar farms since the Government made subsidies available at the end of last year.

He added: “Most people you ask say they are in favour of solar power but then in a lot of cases they turn against it when they find a solar farm is planned near their home.

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“But we do try to find sites where the visual impact will be minimal and there is a limit to the number of solar farms that can be built in any one area because a substation can only connect to so many.

“Solar farms are also temporary constructions that are likely to be taken down after 25 years when new technologies like tidal power will be available.

“Compared with the 250 years we’ve been using fossil fuels, this is not a long time.”

But Braintree district councillor Julian Swift, who looks after the Stour Valley North ward where several solar farms are planned, said: “There are a number of energy companies interested in installing solar farms near to a substation at Belchamps but the problem is that the process is so fragmented.

“Each company enters into confidential commercial talks with UK Power Networks and no-one can see the whole picture of what is going on and what the impact on the countryside will be.

“Order needs to be brought to the process and I’d welcome a government initiative to look at things on a communal basis.” Clacton MP Douglas Carswell said solar power will become commonplace in the future but it is too expensive at the moment.

He added: “I do have a problem with the fact that solar power is subsidised. I strongly resent having to pay higher energy bills so that politicians can tell their European counterparts in Davos that they are meeting renewable targets.

“Undoubtedly, solar power is getting cheaper and in 20 years’ time solar panels will be on all buildings and cars.

“There will be no need for solar farms then and we look back and regard them much as we see tower blocks from the 1960s today.”