Community solar gets green light in ‘fracking village’ victory for Balcombe

Balcombe, the Sussex village which found itself at the epicentre of UK energy debate when it was selected for drilling by fracking firm Cuadrilla, has received planning permission for a community solar farm.

Repower Balcombe, a renewable energy co-operative formed by residents, received unanimous approval at a planning permission hearing today for the 5MW solar power station at Chiddingly Farm. The system would have around 18,500 solar panels and produce at least enough power to cover Balcombe’s energy demand as well as that of another nearby village.

Developers Low Carbon and Southern Solar are set to co-develop the project, which follows on from a modest pilot which saw 69 PV panels installed on a nearby cowshed and installations of PV arrays at two local schools. The 5MW Chiddingly Farm project ‘s funding is expected to be crowd-sourced from supportive members of the public.

Repower Balcombe was founded in December 2013 in direct response to the shale exploration company’s drilling plans, which led to thousands of protestors participating in the UK’s biggest anti-fracking demonstrations to date.

The campaign manager for climate change charity 10:10, which supported the villagers’ efforts, said the group was “delighted”.

“We are delighted with the decision today. When people can choose their energy future they choose renewables, not fracking. Soon Repower Balcombe will be asking the nation to invest in this project and people across the country will have the opportunity to get involved in this positive vision for our energy future," 10:10’s Millie Darling said.

Last week, in protest to proposed feed-in tariff (FiT) cuts, 10:10 used a pressure washer to etch mock PV panels onto the pavement outside the DECC offices.