The four sites will sit within BSIF’s portfolio, which currently stands at 107 solar farms in the UK. Image: Bluefield.

Bluefield Renewable Developments has gained planning consent for four projects with a capacity of nearly 200MW.

The projects include two 49.9MW sites near Blyth and Bedlington, Northumberland on former coalfields, which will represent the first solar farms of this scale in the county, according to Bluefield.

These are in addition to a 49.9MW farm near Witney, West Oxfordshire and a 45MW farm near Ludlow, in Shropshire.

“We are delighted to have secured planning permission for the new solar farms,” said Alan Connolly, development director with Bluefield Renewable Developments.

“The positive decision reached by each of the local council planning committees is a testament both to the hard work of the Bluefield team and to the significant engagement we have undertaken with the local communities to build support for the projects.”

Bluefield Renewable Developments is part of the Bluefield Group, which develops, builds and operates solar farms for funds it advises, including the stock market-listed Bluefield Solar Income Fund (BSIF).

These newly consented projects are expected to boost the BSIF’s existing portfolio of 107 solar farms in the UK, which have a capacity of 766MWp.

The four newly consented sites will be developed on land that is largely classified as not Best and Most Versatile, with 95% to be developed on land that is graded 3B or below. This is a particular boon following recent uncertainty over land gradation and the development of solar in the UK following concerns raised by a number of politicians over the technology’s impact on food security.

When they are constructed, Bluefield plans to graze sheep on the solar sites, thereby giving the land dual use for both food and energy production.

All of the sites will include biodiversity enhancement measures, such as wildflower meadows, rich grasslands and at Tar Farm, Oxfordshire, a newly planted woodland. Hedgerows will also be planted or strengthened at all sites.

Bluefield has committed to undertake a new research project at the Brick House Farm site in Shropshire, looking at an agrivoltaic system that includes alternative uses of land within solar farms for food production.

This research will help identify potential types of food production within and around solar farms, Bluefield said, supplementing sheep grazing and biodiversity management.

The news follows a strong year for BSIF, with high power prices driving up its asset value, even with challenges such as the introduction of the windfall tax.

In June, the company raised £150 million to pay down its fully drawn Revolving Credit Facility following its acquisition of a 93MW portfolio, made up of 15 solar assets.