Proposed Penyrheol Solar Farm
Early stage plans to develop a council owned solar farm at the Cwm Ifor Farm site have recently been endorsed by Caerphilly Council.
A key element of a proposal of this scale will be the consultation and engagement work undertaken with you from the start as members of the community. We have compiled the below information as a series of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ as a starting point, which we hope may offer a little more detail on what these ‘early stage plans’ are.
Has the Council already decided to build the solar farm?
No, we have decided to investigate this opportunity and understand if it is both deliverable and desirable. The proposal that the council’s Cabinet recently agreed to was to investigate the options for development of a solar farm at Cwm Ifor Farm, Penyrheol.
Only once we have this information and have undertaken a thorough options analysis, would a full and final business case be presented to the council’s Cabinet for consideration in 2022 if it is viable.
How will the site be accessed during construction?
The current plan is to decant the construction equipment somewhere suitable closer to the main roads and then use smaller vehicles to deliver equipment and people to the site during construction. We will use existing road networks and not be looking to build any new access roads to the site. We very much welcome feedback on suitable routes and any preferences local residents have as to the timings of construction traffic as we build the traffic management plan.
Can you provide more detail about the environmental impacts of the solar farm?
As a local authority our guiding principles are to ensure that any plans we submit would enhance or maintain the local wildlife and environment.
We will be staying within field boundaries and where appropriate will look to enhance existing hedgerows or undertake complimentary planting. Details of any mitigations and enhancements will be included in the planning documentation.
Research also shows that once Solar panels are installed there can be wildlife benefits, such as shelter, lack of disturbance, and fresh protected habitats. There is also further information that you can obtain from other sources such as the RSPB website.
Their briefing paper available to download on the site states that “If deployed in suitable locations and appropriate mitigation measures are taken, solar energy technologies can be deployed in harmony with nature.”
Can you provide any indication of construction timescales?
Current estimates are that the construction will take approximately 7 months, this will however depend on what time of year we are able to start the construction, availability of materials and labour.
It doesn’t appear to be a very sunny location, has that been factored into the modelling?
Data is collected as part of preparing financial modelling specific to this location to indicate how much sun and the likely outputs possible. This website describes the weather data that we are currently using to estimate the solar farm generation https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/PVGIS/tools/tmy
Do you have any more specific information about the size and design of the site?
At this point in the process we are unable to know the exact size of the site and therefore also unable to confirm how many panels and what size they will be. This work will be done over the coming months to determine the best location on the farm for the panels taking into consideration a variety of factors including importantly the feedback provided by the local community.
The report mentions job creation, do you have any evidence for this please?
Using the UK Energy Research Centre report on employment metrics from renewables, link below, it is possible to quantify the jobs resulting from a 20MW solar farm with a life of 35 years. In total, including direct and ind jobs. Around 49 jobs will be created from this project.
These numbers exclude indirect jobs as these are unlikely to be local, such as the import of the panels from countries which have the raw materials like quartzite to make polysilicon. Low carbon jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy | UKERC | The UK Energy Research Centre.
Can you detail what site security will be put in place if the site is developed?
The site will require security and we anticipate this will be a stock proof fence approximately 1.8m with hedges to maintain the visual amenity of the site. There will also be a requirement for CCTV but this will be focussed on the perimeter only and will only be active when motion is detected. We will provide much more details about this in future engagements.
Are there any plans to extend the site?
There are no plans to extend the size of the site at this point. The contract with Western Power currently limits the electrical output we are able to feed into the national grid and we do not have plans to renegotiate this at this point.
Can you provide details of the next steps and decision making process?
The planning application will be decided by Welsh Government and we hope to submit that planning application at some point in 2021 for a decision in 2022. Once we know the outcome of the planning application and have built our final business case this will go before senior leadership at the Council, Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet for decision. We anticipate this process taking place at some point during 2022 and taking 3 months once we have the final business case completed. The final business case will present a range of options for the continuance of the project.
Will there be any face to face consultation?
Absolutely yes. We are hoping to be able to do face to face planning in Autumn 2021 including visits to the local community councils, schools and other community groups. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to stay in touch.
Is there a way I can stay informed about the site please?
Following requests from the local community we will prepare a short newsletter email which will be issued when there are significant updates to share. If you would like to be registered for this newsletter please email email@example.com.