According to local news provider, ‘This is Cornwall’, a £40 million network of “sun farm” solar power stations are be installed across parts of the Westcountry. The ten plants, if they go ahead as planned, could more than treble the amount of solar energy generated in the UK.

The sites are located across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, with the first being built on a 15-acre site between St Kew and St Mabyn in North Cornwall. Subject to planning permission, this plant will start generating power in April 2011.

Jon Vidler, project co-ordinator for Benbole Energy Farm (BEF), which is behind the scheme, said if everything goes to plan seven other “silicon vineyards” will be rolled out across Cornwall, with two others on the Isles of Scilly. In total they would generate 20MW of electricity, which is enough to power 10,000 homes. “We are trying to make this a worthy project for the whole of Cornwall,” he said.

“Apart from the panels themselves, everything else will be Cornish-made. Cornwall's optimum environment makes it the default choice to be the national hub for the technology that is set to bring the UK's energy mix into the 21st century.”

BEF is working with Penzance-based Renewable Energy Cooperative (R-ECO) to specify design and install the 2MW solar photovoltaic farm in North Cornwall. The company said each panel stands no more than 2m high, which it hopes will allow it to avoid the sort of objections raised to wind farms in the South West.

The firm also has aspirations to go further, with the hope of opening a PV manufacturing plant in Cornwall. “But the whole concept (of small local solar power farms) can be run up to the top of Scotland,” he said.

Planning is also underway on a £15 million solar park, covering between 20 and 40 acres, to be built on council-owned land close to RAF St Mawgan and Newquay Airport.

The park will be used to power council facilities, including the airport, and produce 5MW of power through a series of static solar panels, suspended horizontally in the field, and used to harness the sun's energy.