Construction of a 40MW solar farm has been completed at the site of a new MOD training facility at RAF Lyneham, becoming the first project to form part of the government’s project to install 1GW of solar on government land.
However the development comprises two separate ground-mount installations, seemingly flying in the face of opposition towards large-scale ground-mounted solar farms by governmental bodies, specifically the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
While Solar Power Portal understands British Solar Renewables is responsible for the site’s development and operation, the company could not comment when contacted and both the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation had yet to respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Former air base RAF Lyneham is in the process of being converted into a Defence College of Technical Training, a £180 million programme which will see the land transformed into a state-of-the-art training centre for the armed forces by 2019.
In May last year planning documents were submitted to develop two separate solar arrays with a combined capacity of 40MW at the site. One installation, fitted on 18 hectares adjacent to the indoor training facilities, would help the facility meet its energy demand while the other, constructed on 70 hectares of land to the north of the runway, would export to the national grid to help generate revenue for the Ministry of Defence. A blog written by MOD project manager Steve Jeffries last year referenced the development as the “perfect site” for a solar farm due to its poor agricultural value and restrictions on it being sold.
“A lot of thought has gone into this…Some people think solar panels are an eyesore, so we’ve worked hard on plans to screen the array from local people. I believe it’s a good scheme with real benefits not only for the College, but for the MOD and the public as a whole,” Jeffries said.
The government has previously laid out plans to install 1GW of solar capacity on the government estate, however it had been thought that this would primarily been on rooftops of public buildings with certain government departments having been vocal in their opposition to utility-scale solar farms.
While DECC curtailed ROC support for solar farms above 5MW early in favour of the competitive CfD programme, Defra ministers including Elizabeth Truss and George Eustice have attacked solar farms in recent weeks for “trashing the countryside”.
Speaking to Western Morning News last month, Eustice said the prevalence of solar farms was a “public policy issue” and claimed that “some parts have certainly got far too many solar farms”. The comments came less than a week after Truss reiterated unfounded claims that solar farms were having a negative impact on the UK’s agricultural output.