Could our district become the solar powerhouse of the region?

Solar panels
Solar panels

North Nottinghamshire could become the ‘solar powerhouse of the East Midlands’, a councillor has claimed after planners approved three projects.

Members of Mansfield District Council’s planning committee have given the go-ahead for work to start on new renewable-energy farms on Littlewood Lane in Mansfield, Carter Lane in Warsop Vale, and Beck Lane on the Mansfield/Sutton border.

However, a fourth application to site photovoltaic panels on an 11-hectare site off Penniment Lane, Mansfield was rejected due on the grounds of visual impact and loss of good agricultural land and visual impact as the reasons.

However, they are just a few of a number submitted in recent years.

Last year, permission was given to transform the former Welbeck Colliery site into a massive solar farm, while in October, a 28-acre site at Debdale Lane was approved,

Newark and Sherwood District Council also recently rejected an application close to Thoresby Colliery.

Meanwhile, campaigners in Sookholme are still calling for a solar project planned off Sookhlome Road to be rejected.

Councillor Nick Bennett, a member of Mansfield council’s planning committee as Independent Forum member for Kingsway, admitted he voted in favour of all projects at the recent planning meeting, but says he still has reservations over solar power, especially the amount of applications cropping up in the region.

He said: “Why are they coming to the East Midlands?

“The amount we are getting does seem excessive and I can’t understand why they are wanting to put them here – it’s not that we get more sun here. I know we need to be doing something, we can’t just do nothing – it’s not an option, but I’m keeping an open mind.

“I have to go in to planning meetings with an unbiased view, but I prefer tried and tested methods like solid fuel and nuclear power.”

Coun Bennett said Britain’s increasing reliance on foreign fuel is helping to bring renewable energy to the forefront of Government policies.

In turn, they put pressure on local councils to help hit renewable energy targets, while offering incentives to energy companies to submit applications.

But while Coun Bennett understands the need for alternative energy sources, he shares the frustrations with residents who regularly fight to block the solar projects being built on their doorstep.

He agrees they are a blot on the landscape, but suggests a lack of understanding of how effective they are is a greater issue, as is the lack of benefits for the communities in which they are built.

He said: “Everybody is concerned about doing their bit, but we can never get any straight answers about them. I don’t think they are tried and tested.

“If they brought our energy prices down then it might be more appealing, but they aren’t.

“I understand why people are frustrated by it and prices should be coming down, but it’s always fed into the National Grid and we don’t see any differences.

“It’s difficult because we have Government targets to meet, but it should be big businesses who should be cleaning up their act, instead of shoving it on the little people with solar farms.”

However, while residents may not be seeing the benefits with their energy bills, one solar farm is beginning to make a difference.

Earlier this year, more than 2,000 panels were installed to help make Mansfield’s Ransom Wood Business Park more self-sufficient.

Director Charles Cannon was meticulous in which company would carry out the work, speaking with 33 solar companies before making a decision.

He said: “The panels are 70 per cent efficient – 70 per cent of the energy hitting the panel is converted. They are far more efficient than anything else, and because they don’t have any mechanics so little can go wrong with them.

“However, I do not favour large solar farms that simply feed into the National Grid, they are money-making exercises. If the energy is being produced locally, it should go back into the community.”

REJECTED: Penniment Lane, Mansfield: The 11.6-hectare site covers four fields and was projected to produce 5mw of electricity, enough to power 1,300 homes.

The planning committee rejected the plan Submitted from London-based Global Renewables, saying it would be a loss of agricultural land, would impact on neighbouring assets and nearby highways and have a visual impact on the surrounding land.

Neighbours had campaigned against the plans.

APPROVED: Littlewood Lane, Mansfield: A similar-size operation to the proposals on Penniment Lane, company Milgate 64 said it will power more than 1,350 homes.

After being given the go-ahead, more than 20,000 solar panels are now expected to be mounted on metal frames and placed on the land.

Milgate 64 said the land in question was of poor quality for agricultural farming.

The applicants says it would have a 30-year life span, before the land is returned to its original state.

APPROVED: Carter Lane, Warsop Vale: With a 3.76mw output, the park will cover 6.66 hectares which is currently used for arable farming.

More than 14,470 free-standing panels will be put in place. The planning committee voted 11 to one in favour of approval after it was found the farm would not have a harmful visual effect on the area.

APPROVED: Ashland Cottage Farm, Beck Lane, Sutton. The application was passed by six votes to five, with one abstention. It will see 20,000 panels across a 10-hectare site.

It is estimated to create 5mw of electricity, and offset 2,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide otherwise generated through fossil fuels.

However, six residents objected claiming the site was too large and too near homes.