A project to build a 114 acre solar farm in apple orchards in the east Kent countryside was unveiled.
International company Green Switch Capital plans to install thousands of panels in the country north of Chilham and Old Wives Lees and build a 2.4 meter high security fence to protect the extensive grounds.
The land is to be converted into a solar park
Official plans for the project, which is expected to create 200 jobs in the construction phase, are due to be officially presented in the coming days.
The area, which is supposed to supply 15,000 households with electricity and have a lifespan of 30 years, will be the size of 86 soccer fields.
It is called North Court Solar Farm and is bisected by Lower Ensden Road and is also adjacent to part of Shalmsford Road, the main route connecting Old Wives Lees and Chartham.
A website detailing the goals of the project states that its establishment will help the government achieve its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 68% by 2030 and increasing electricity reliability.
The development aims to prevent 21,500 tons of carbon dioxide from polluting the air annually, while at the same time it is claimed that electricity prices will fall thanks to increased competition in the renewable energy market.
“In view of the falling costs for solar power, the strong transmission network in the region and the local demand for electricity, the proposal is an important source for new power generation,” says the project overview.
“To ensure the safety of the solar park equipment, a security fence is being built around the property line to restrict access to the site.
“This is a 2.4 meter high deer or similar fence that was chosen to minimize the visual impact of the fence based on the location of the site.
“The solar park would create over 200 direct and indirect jobs as well as indirect supply chain opportunities during construction.
“In addition, it will employ around two to three full-time workers during the operation and maintenance phase (expected to be 30 years).”
A total of 51,8000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy are generated annually. It can be assumed that the site will be used for agriculture again after the solar park has been removed.
The land in question earmarked for development is on the border of the Ashford and Canterbury counties and is adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The official plans are to be presented soon. Stock Photo
When the plans are presented, which is expected shortly, the Ashford Council will decide their fate.
Chilham Parish Council Chair Jane Martin says it is too early to judge the pros and cons of the program, but urges all villagers to share their views once proposals have been submitted.
“It's a very big undertaking for the region and something that has to take a long time to think about,” she said.
“I urge residents to get involved as this will have a huge impact – it's a big application in a small area.”
Cllr Martin hopes the possibility of compensation for existing villagers or pledges for cheaper energy bills are options to consider at the planning stage.
“Solar is a way forward and something that needs to be explored,” she continued.
“It is a very big undertaking for the region and something that has to be considered for a long time …”
“It is always difficult to live in rural areas because we don't want to live in areas with great development.
“Until we have seen the plans in detail, it is still too early to say our position.”
The plans for southwest Canterbury come just months after proposals for a huge 250 acre solar park north of the city between Hoath and Chislet were announced.
The Enso Energy project is also in the initial phase; an official building application has yet to be submitted.
Another solar park project with 252 hectares of land next to the M20 was also recently unveiled.
EDF Renewables' program – intended for fields between Smeeth, Aldington and Sellindge – would, if built, produce enough electricity to supply 17,000 households a year.
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