Solar developer, REG Solarpower and landfill site operator, Veolia have submitted plans to Thurrock Council to turn an old landfill site into a 38MW solar farm.

The Ockendon landfill site was previously used as clay quarry and landfill site, but since it ceased operating the site has become empty, requiring environmental control and aftercare that could last for ‘several decades’. According to the company’s planning statement, the proposed site will require leachate management and gas extraction which severely limits the use of the land.

As a result, Veolia wants to install solar onsite because it offers an opportunity to “make best use of the restored areas while they remain in aftercare, but without compromising ongoing environmental control”.

The planned solar farm will sit across 98.44 hectares of land but only around 30% of which will be developed. The proposed 38MW solar farm site is predicted to generate almost 35GWh of electricity a year – enough to power over 8,200 homes annually.

The UK has seen a huge boom in ground-mount solar sites over the last year, with one-third of the UK’s 5GW of total solar capacity taken up by solar farms that occupy a footprint of 25-100 acres.

However, the government’s Solar Strategy is attempting to shift focus away from ground-mounted solar in favour of roof-mounted solar. Greg Barker, the ex minister for climate change, told Solar Power Portal that the step away from ground-mount solar was “to avoid solar becoming the new onshore wind – from pushing too many insensitively placed sites…[the strategy] is not to say that in the right place, large arrays can’t work, particularly Brownfield sites, but local planning must be respected”.