New solar farm near Stowmarket could power 14,000 homes

Land at Woodlands Farm, Stowmarket Road, Badley.

Land at Woodlands Farm, Stowmarket Road, Badley, which is the subject of a planning application to be turned into a solar energy farm. - Credit: Google Maps

Plans for a solar energy farm that could provide electricity to power up to 14,000 homes in Stowmarket have been submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council.

The plans, which centre around a 138-acre site on land at Woodlands Farm, Stowmarket Road, Badley, were submitted by Elgin Energy. 

Elgin Energy has previously developed 21 solar projects across the UK and Ireland, with further developments at various stages in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

Should the plans be given the green light, the farm will take around six months to build, and be operational for 40 years, producing up to 49.9 megawatts of energy, enough to power up to 14,000 homes.

The developers say the site was chosen after feasibility work revealed the area was of "high solar irradiance (power received from the sun) in the UK" and due to its location close to the Stowmarket sub-station at the nearby business park which "negates the need for lengthy underground transmission cables and will allow for the efficient transmission of energy to the grid."                        

The planning statement for the project, prepared by Arcus Consultancy Services, says: "The development is an opportunity to provide a significant amount of low carbon renewable energy in an appropriate location.

"As such, it will contribute to the aims of the Mid-Suffolk Climate Emergency Plan and the council’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, as well as national and international climate change targets and the ongoing effort to increase energy security for the UK. 

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"New native woodland, hedgerow and tree planting is proposed to strengthen existing boundary vegetation and provide improved habitat connectivity and integrate the development into the wider landscape.

"There are clear benefits which arise from the renewable energy credentials of the development and the enhancements proposed in respect of biodiversity and landscape, which clearly outweigh the minimal adverse impacts."

However, councillor John Matthissen has expressed some concerns with the project.

He said: “The Green Party wishes to see more renewable energy production but this land is not suitable as it is designated as a special landscape area (SLA) between Combs Wood and the Badley Church Green conservation area including the grade one listed mediaeval St Marys church.

"Across the road from the proposed solar farm lies the Gateway 14 development, where we wish to see solar panels on all of the commercial buildings. In addition far too few new houses are being fitted with solar panels, and there is huge scope to install more on existing homes, without taking arable land out of production."

A decision on the plans is expected in mid-May.