Solar PV developer, Countryside Renewables, has had its plans for a 5MW solar farm in Essex approved by councillors.

The 5MW solar farm project represents the first utility-scale solar or wind development to be approved by the Maldon District Council. According to the developer, some choice councillor comments included: “I am strongly in favour of these solar installations in the right place and this is exactly the right place.” And: “This site really is not very visible. Out of all the sites that have come before us, I absolutely support this application.”

The solar farm is predicted to generate enough energy to power 1,650 homes, or half of all houses in the nearby town of Burnham-on-Crouch and the wider Burnham-on-Crouch ward.

Denis Gross, partner at Countryside Renewables said that the solar farm represents a beneficial addition to the local environment thanks to CO2 savings equivalent to removing 1,500 cars off the road throughout the projects lifetime. In addition, the solar farm will pay around £20,000 in annual business rates to the local community.

The landowner, Martin Smith, added: “I welcome the project from an environmental perspective with the chance to use the field for long‐term conservation that would link in with our new environmental Stewardship Scheme. The panels will cover only 40% of the field, with 60% of the field being used to create a wildflower and tussocky grassland habitat benefitting over a dozen rare and endangered species. These include the Shrill Carder Bee (Bumblebee), Barn Owls, Kestrels, Hen Harriers, Cuckoos and Yellow Wagtails.”

With the upcoming removable of renewable obligation support for solar farms over 5MW, many industry insiders are predicting that ground-mount solar developers will move to sub-5MW sites to continue to take advantage of the renewable obligation scheme.