Solar farm projects turned down at highest rate in five years in Britain | Solar energy

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Solar farms are being denied planning permission in Britain at the highest rate in five years, analysis has found, with projects that would have slashed £100million in annual electricity bills denied over the past 18 last months.

Planning permission for 23 solar farms was refused in England, Wales and Scotland between January 2021 and July 2022, which could have produced enough renewable energy to power around 147,000 homes a year, according to the analysis of government figures by planning and development consultancy Turley.

Refusals have increased significantly since the start of 2021 – research found that only four projects were refused planning permission in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined.

Of the 27 solar parks denied between 2019 and 2022, 19 are in conservative constituencies. Four were in Labor constituencies, three in Scottish National Party constituencies and one in a Liberal Democrat constituency.

It is feared that such rejections could increase further, as Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have made disparaging comments about solar farms.

The South West and East of England have seen the highest number of rejections over the past 18 months, with four projects turned down in each region. Wales, the West Midlands and Scotland each had three refusals, while the East Midlands, North East and South East England each saw two planning applications rejected.

Analysts at the Green Alliance think tank said the rejected projects were large solar farms averaging around 30MW each, which may explain the planning rejections as it is easier to get smaller farms approved. .

However, he added that this should not be a reason to refuse planning permission, as larger solar farms could further reduce bills.

He said refused solar farms could have cut around £100million off Britain’s electricity bills this year.

Dustin Benton, Policy Director of Green Alliance, said: “We should produce as much clean, cheap energy as possible to reduce people’s energy bills and reduce our dependence on Russian gas. This additional solar power generation, if it replaced gas, would have saved more than £100 million a year in wholesale energy costs.

“By integrating solar panels into fields, even farmers on high-quality land can continue to farm while enjoying steady income from solar panels.”

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If Truss goes ahead with her plan to crack down on solar farms, it would run counter to the government’s energy security strategy released this spring.

The strategy set an ambition to generate 70 GW of energy from solar technology by 2035. It also promises to consult on changing planning regulations to strengthen policy for development on unprotected land, as well as support co-located solar energy with other functions such as agriculture and established energy infrastructure.

Emma Kelly, Associate Director at Turley, said: “Solar is expected to be a key contributor to the energy market, especially as we seek to diversify our renewable energy products to ensure continued supply.

“The significant increase in building permit denials for solar farms runs entirely counter to the proposals set out in the UK Government’s Energy Security Strategy. Solar power currently provides 14 GW of energy, so we still have some way to go before we reach the 70 GW goal. If Liz Truss goes ahead with her plan, Britain’s energy security strategy will have to be rewritten.

“Biodiversity is certainly a factor we need to take into account with solar farms, while the continued rise in the cost of energy has shown how important renewable energy production is for the future of the United Kingdom. A growing trend of denial of building permits for renewable energy projects designed to support energy security is a huge step backwards on our road to net zero.

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