Solar array



Borchester Land (BL) is proposing a large-scale solar farm on the Estate. If the project goes through, it will mean that a sizeable chunk of farmland will be covered with large solar panels in what is known as a “solar array”.

Like a number of landowners around the country, BL is keen to get its solar farm up and running before the Government changes the support arrangements for large-scale schemes like this. Until now these schemes have enjoyed substantial public subsidies in the form of ROCs – Renewable Obligation Certificates. But from March next year this support will no longer be available for ground-mounted solar farms in the mid-scale, 5-30MW range.

This is the size range that includes the BL scheme. So if they are to cash in on the subsidy, the land company will need to get its skates on to have the solar farm working by next March. An industry survey has shown there are nearly 200 projects of this size currently under consideration, or at the planning stage.

If the Government’s proposals go ahead, there is likely to be renewed interest in smaller solar energy schemes: those delivering up to 5MW of power. These will continue to earn the ROC subsidy.

However they are unlikely to hold much appeal for BL chairman Justin Elliott. He’s known to favour big, bold schemes which have a real impact. Renewable energy is one of BL’s main areas of interest under its new management team. Whether this will win many plaudits from Ambridge locals is far from certain.

If Elliott’s big scheme fails to get beyond the planning stage, he is unlikely to give up on solar power generation. While a single small-scale project may not hold much appeal, he is almost certain to look into ways of maximising income under the new arrangements by going for a number of small schemes. He is known to have bought a number of blocks of land in south Borsetshire. If all of them become sites for 5MW farms, BL may end up no worse off.

Rooftop schemes

The company may also decide to go for rooftop schemes. BL’s Ambridge estate contains a number of barns and other buildings, all of which could become sites for rooftop panels. ROCs for smaller schemes, along with feed-in tariffs are all applicable to rooftop schemes.

As with all such schemes, the ones most likely to get the go-ahead from planners are those which have been sensitively sited and take account of local feelings. In general the more remote the site the better. Key location criteria include:

  • Keeping well away from special areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Being well away from heritage sites such as ancient burial mounds
  • Far from public rights-of-way and roads
  • Away from sites that are overlooked by local residents

Whether the South Borsetshire planning committee will feel that BL’s proposed scheme meets these criteria is yet to be seen.

Following the retirement of Steve Peacock, Graham Harvey has returned to the role of The Archers’ agricultural adviser.

Solar Power in the UK (Wikipedia)

Solar farms 'set to keep growing' despite subsidy cuts (BBC News)

Read the history of Borchester Land

Learn more about Justin Elliott in our Who’s Who

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by stampcollector

    on 27 Jun 2014 11:56

    I'm a townie through and through, but I always believed that the countryside (even Borsetshire) was a food factory, not an energy factory.

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by The Leech Pedlar

    on 23 Jun 2014 12:46

    With additional food producing land taken out of production, the one thing you can be sure of, is that food prices will go up.

    It'll be so useful when we're producing all of this electricity and the people won't be able to buy food to cook with it. Join the dots, thinking? Well it's certainly dotty.

    But farmers are only in it for the subsidies... Aren't they?

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by pje

    on 23 Jun 2014 11:33

    BL have been slow off the mark with this project and I would have thought it would have been a board proposal some time ago when the subsidies were a lot better than they are today. (Brian should have been sacked along time ago for his incompetence in not looking into this at the time. Solar farms can also be build with sheep can grazing underneath, so benefiting from the idea the land is dual purpose, double income and the owner doesn't have to cut the grass. In the middle east they are installing automatic solar panel cleaning machines.. Will BL be the 1st in the country to also install this high tech stuff in Borchester?

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by Peter

    on 21 Jun 2014 06:59

    Some years ago, Ambridge was a Transition Village! So there are some who see the need for re-newable energy. Maybe they will re-emerge, to demand the solar farm and the new AD are community owned.
    The Church of England's Shrinking the footprint campaign is based upon 1) God saw his creation as good, and followers of Jesus need to make sure the creation remains good 2) although, by and large, we don't suffer from climate change yet,(although Brookfield hosted some sheep displace from Somerset) our neighbours in many countries are already suffering, and future generations will suffer. These are our neighbours, whom we are commanded to love. Maybe Alan could preach on this!?!

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by JoinedPeetsBoard_Smeesues_too

    on 20 Jun 2014 16:10

    I'm glad you said that Al ..

    I am old enough to remember post war austerity and "dig for victory" and to give over farmland to solar panels seems the height of foolishness .. however maybe I do not see the "bigger picture"? We need food - as a basic and IMHO we cannot count on getting it outside this country - apart from the extra energy required to do so ...

    Possibly Justin is doing what Govts do sometimes - which is to frighten people with extremes so they can achieve lesser but still unpopular legislation as they "back down".
    JPBS

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Al

    on 19 Jun 2014 21:47

    No way should planners be giving the go ahead to solar panels on arable land anywhere in the country and the government are wise to potential dodges of splitting into smaller sites - under statutory guidance, planners should already have been rejecting those. Such solar developments are not helping the country reduce emissions, they are just costing the earth!
    It is ridiculous to suggest that the more remote the better! Electricity is lost in transmission, so it should be produced at point of need (as it is on factory rooftops). Also, it has been proven that behaviour changes when the energy production is in the consumers control or visible to them, and consumption of energy is reduced.
    All solar panels on farmland do is urbanise the countryside and create a burden on tax payers/energy consumers. Do you really want to pay 18% of your energy bill just to subsidise renewable energy bling, the building of extra pylons and then pay yet more to deal with congested roads caused by higher food miles. If the good folk in Borsetshire really want to lead the way in lowering carbon emissions and having a healthier lifestyle, a good way to start is buying locally grown food (which needs local farmland) and eating with the seasons.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Kris

    on 17 Jun 2014 15:34

    I'm sure Justin will be having a look at all the subsidy farming he can. Wouldn't dismiss turbines yet! I've seen Borsetshire on a wind atlas of Europe and it pretty similar to Shropshire - and they're getting their fair share of "small turbines". The next assignation or moment of reflection on Lakey Hill be be backgrounded by the swish from a few a 55m rotors.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Airbrushman

    on 17 Jun 2014 13:49

    This could get really interesting.

    We are currently fighting a massive (145 acre) solar 'plant' development on farmland in the beautiful 'Brecklands' of Norfolk that would destroy the landscape.

    The company trying to inflict this on us are in Reading Berks so it won't affect them - just make them rich.

    There is a LOT of information, and photos, on the village website - www.bridgham.org.uk


    The BBC could find this a good source of information for their storyline - what really goes on when these 'green' upstart company's decide to go ahead against the wishes of 91% of the reidents.

    We are in favour of renewable energy, but not like this.

    Coastal seabed tidal energy is a much smarter, reliable energy which is there every day regardless of whether the sun shines or wind blows.
    My father was advocating this back in the '70's and Oxford Uni have done a lot of research and development on this.

    We need to wake up and stop the madness of solar and wind and fracking and use the moon - tides!

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by frankie

    on 17 Jun 2014 10:45

    So now we have outrage at the thought of another bio-digester, and ..........a solar farm!!! Still Ambridge manages to escape the scourge of wind farms and hundreds of 400 foot turbines all over Lakey Hill - how have they done it? Please let us know here in Montgomeryshire Mid-Wales, we could do with all the help we can get!!!

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by BioPro

    on 17 Jun 2014 09:22

    Will we see some realism in the means that Private Equity operates when it takes over an institutions such as BL? Namely, that these large projects requires huge amounts of capital, which Demara will primarily borrow from banks and overseas institutions, then saddle BL with the crippling loan repayments, whilst they get paid hefty management fees.

    The shareholders of BL who are getting all excited by aggressive growth plans will soon see their profits and dividends shrink to nothing. Not suggesting the SL goes too much into the financial ins and outs, but I think a twist where the shareholders who took a quick buck and are like puppies over the new developments suddenly realising its not all rosey for them would be good.

    Also, I would appreciate some clarity (perhaps on the blog if its too dull for the broadcast) on the structure of BL. From the website I would presume its a private company and not listed on a stock exchange. In which case, I do not understand how Demara could have acquired its stake without the Chairman or shareholders knowing. If a company adopts standard articles of association on incorporation, the standard rules regarding sale of shares (except to family members or connected parties) is that they have to be offered to existing shareholders before to a new member. This would not have affected the outcome, as Demara would just have offered more until it out bid anyone. The only other route would be to issue new shares for sale and this cannot be done without agreement of existing shareholders. The company could of course been set up with modified articles to allow sale of shares willy nilly, but this is unusual - mind you the original founders were a bit shady in their business dealings (Matt), so it is possible

    Furthermore to exclude a director and especially the Chairman from the discussions is neglect of a director's fiduciary responsibilities - the rest of the board could be prosecuted and disbarred as directors if not sent to prison for such actions.

    Also its a misconception and laisser faire SL that they need 51% or 53% of the shares to have control. If new articles and shareholder agreements are adopted, they would be re-written to give Demara effective control over any corporate action - admittedly if they just purchased other shareholders equity and took over the existing articles and shareholder agreements, this would not apply.

    Not suggesting the Archers turns into Dallas, but I think the SW missed a trick here as the acquisition of BL shares by Demara could have occurred over a 4 week period, with Brian being outwitted corporately at every turn, which would have been nice suspense and also focus the character more into the community - he's in a strange place at present trying to stay in with Justin Elliott whilst part of the community - it looks like he is about to be pushed off the board, so perhaps we will see him develop on this route.

    And I am in favour of the solar farm ,though perhaps on the roofs - they wouldn't get planning permission in time to install fields by the March 2015 deadline.

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