Lightsource Renewable Energy has launched an online portal designed to help local communities easily access and view proposals of planned solar farms.

The UK’s largest solar developer commissioned the custom built portal as a response to recent comments made by the minister for energy and climate change, Greg Barker, who urged developers of large-scale solar to engage with local communities.   

Conor McGuigan, director of planning and development for Lightsource explained: “Barker recently announced that solar farm developers should demonstrate responsible development and environmental stewardship with any proposed scheme, we hope that this portal will show just that”.

The London-based developer regularly runs community information events for many of its proposed sites and, after feedback from locals, worked to make accessing information to proposed solar farms as easy as possible for interested parties.

“We have been inspired to take matters up a notch, trying to find that valuable balance between paper and technology. This portal cannot replace our entire mail-out process. What it enables us to do though, is interactively demonstrate our pictures and videos up-front before people come to meet us,” added McGuigan.

He continued: “We hold our information evenings early because we value the feedback from the local community. Inevitably, our proposals will be refined based on the information we receive. The portal will be a nice way of keeping in touch with everyone so they can provide feedback to us and view updates to our proposals when they happen”.

The solar developer also views the online portal as an ideal platform to help combat some of the most common myths that continue to plague the solar industry. McGuigan explained: “The possibilities are endless with an online portal. The video function will enable us to address myths like noise, glare and industrialisation, so everyone can see that solar farms are passive in nature. If teachers are interested in solar technology, the portal is friendly enough to be used in schools as well”.

A recent groundswell of opposition against solar farms, led by several MPs, has caused the Coalition government to issue revised planning guidance for solar farms that asks local planning authorities to give more weight to locals’ concerns.

McGuigan added that he hoped Lightsource’s transparency and desire to engage with communities would set an example for other solar developers.

“Community engagement and open channels of communication are key in delivering responsible developments,” he concluded.

The site can be viewed here.