Ashford Borough Council eyes 9MW solar farm as ‘significant’ income boost

Image: Solarcentury.

Ashford Borough Council is to develop a 9MW solar farm on council land which it said would provide a “significant income stream” for the local authority.

The council’s cabinet has agreed to proposals to develop the project on a 50-acre plot of land in Shadoxhurst, south west of Ashford in Kent.

The land was purchased by the council in 2017 but is currently only used for grazing, and has been determined to offer “little scope” for agricultural use. The council has subsequently agreed that a solar farm would be the “optimal use” for the site.

The solar farm would be developed primarily to export solar to the grid and is forecast to generate around £7 million over a 25-year life expectancy, profits from which are to be used to secure council services during what constitutes a challenging economic climate.

Having received cabinet approval, the council will now conduct a local consultation with both parish councils and local communities, which will be followed by a formal planning application.

Graham Galpin, portfolio holder for corporate property at the council, said the body was proactively seeking ways in which it can secure additional funding.

"We also feel it is our duty to take the lead on improving air quality by producing electricity through greener, more sustainable means.

"Of course, we will be carrying out a comprehensive local consultation as part of the planning process and, should the project come to fruition I am confident that this project will enable us to secure income in a way that actually has a positive effect on our borough's carbon footprint,” he said.

Councils up and down the UK have turned to solar with increasing regularity given the technology’s ability to deliver consistent returns on investment while simultaneously boosting a body’s environmental credentials.

Cambridgeshire County Council recently unveiled plans to turn two former landfill sites into solar-plus-storage farms to bolster its coffers, while Bristol recently landed millions in funding to launch a “new wave” of clean energy projects in the city’s borders.