Hampshire-based Hive Energy has begun consulting on proposals to install a 25MW solar park in Suffolk. The proposed solar park will span 160 acres of farmland in the village of Hacheston and produce enough energy to supply 25,000 homes with carbon-free energy.

Hive Energy has partnered with Moser Baer to help deliver the proposed £40 million scheme. The companies have invited local residents to comment on the solar proposals to help gauge local support for the park, prior to submitting the proposals to the local planning department.

Giles Redpath, Chief Executive Officer of Hive Energy, told the East Anglian Daily Times: “We are waiting for consultation responses and, depending on the feedback, may want to alter our plans before submitting an application.

“The idea of renewable development takes a bit of getting used to but needs to be done – the country needs the energy. There is a perception that this country is not sunny enough but the fact is that solar panels harness light and can still perform at 70 percent potential on a cloudy day.

“Being close to the sea, Suffolk has particularly good light and a lot of cooling wind, so the panels can perform better. There is already a very good substation in place which can be used for renewable energy.

“The land has been farmed for decades but is no longer being farmed. We will plant a wildflower meadow which should become a very good environment for wildlife, flora and fauna.”

The local reaction to the solar park seems to chime with a recent study by Friends of the Earth that revealed that 85 percent of Brits want the UK to implement more renewable energy. One resident, who did not want to be named, summed up local feelings towards the project, saying: “I’m not environmentally against it – solar panels are known to work.

“But it is a very big development and the proposal will be of local interest. Some people may see it as a blight but it will be difficult to see unless you fly over it – and the developers are willing to plant more hedges.”

Whilst Suffolk’s Greenest County Chief, Judy Terry, added: “In principle, I would suggest that this is a very good thing for Suffolk – but it is a decision that must be made by the local community.

“I would certainly welcome a measure like this to assist with our supply of green energy and our ambition of becoming the Greenest County. However, there must be some reciprocal benefit for the local community. It has to be negotiated and gain approval locally.

“I think people are becoming more flexible in their opinion of renewable energy and more aware of the shortfall in energy supply for the future. We have to become self-sustainable in this country and the technology is becoming more and more efficient for achieving that.”

Once the companies feel that local residents are broadly supportive of the scheme, a formal application will be submitted to Suffolk Coastal District Council’s planning committee. A council spokesman said: “National planning policies encourage councils to support the principle of renewable or low carbon energy sources but any decision must of course take account of the local environmental impacts and that is what will have to be weighed up if a formal planning application is submitted to the council for this proposed solar farm.”

New research published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended that local councils should be given more incentives to achieve emission reductions at a local level. The CCC suggests that local authorities should become environmental role models by championing renewable energy generation. As champions, councils should do more to approve renewables projects, such as the proposed, in order to develop a larger local decentralised energy infrastructure.

The 25MW park will be registered under the Renewable Obligation Certification (ROC) scheme, as FiT payments only cover installations up to 5MW. A combination of declining FiT payments and module costs in the UK has opened the door for significantly larger solar PV developments in the UK, a trend expected to grow throughout the year.