Image: EDF Renewables

Image: EDF Renewables

The Secretary of State for Energy Security has granted development consent for a 350-400MW solar and battery storage farm to be built by EDF Renewables to the north-east of Chelmsford in Essex. 

Longfield Solar Farm will be the first solar project developed by EDF Renewables in the UK over 50MW. The application was submitted in February 2022 and saw 18 months of engagement and consultation with local stakeholders. 

Ben Fawcett, head of solar at EDF Renewables UK, said: “I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our consultation and the public examination. The feedback we received from residents, local authorities, environmental groups and many others has helped shape our plans. We will continue to work closely with them to make sure we minimise the impact of construction and maximise the huge opportunities for the area.” 

EDF Renewables say the project will “kick-start a programme of research to look at the positive impacts large-scale solar farms can have on biodiversity and wildlife in the UK. It is our ambition that this would add to the accumulated knowledge on biodiversity enhancements and land use across the industry as well as in our future projects.” 

As part of the Environment Act 2021, all new construction projects need to demonstrate a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain beginning later this year. 

Construction of the site will take around two years, EDF Renewables said, and that they hope to be exporting electricity to the national grid at the start of 2028. 

Many solar farm projects under construction are just below the 50MW boundary beyond which a project is considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). In April, Atrato acquired a 50MW ready-to-build solar site in North Yorkshire, while in May, Cero Generation and Enso Energy announced the connection of a 50MW site direct to the transmission network. 

Bigger sites are also in development, such as a 150MW site in Cheshire, and EDF Renewables has plans for a 100MW mixed solar-wind-battery project in Wales.