Huge solar farm will power 4,500 homes in North Devon
A solar farm three times the size of the Eden Project has been approved in Devon.
Renewable energy firm Hive Energy Limited is set to build the 109-acre solar farm, producing 15-18MW of power, near Holsworthy.
Campaigners say the plans, at Pitworthy Farm will "industrialise" one-sixth of a square mile of agricultural land.
But the landowner says the scheme will be almost completely hidden by trees and hedges and insisted the sheep farm, which produces around 600 lambs each year, will continue as before.
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A spokesman for Pitworthy Farm said the project was "well hidden" and "sympathetically done" with trees left standing in fields.
He said the acreage gave a false picture of the scale of the site as shade cast by a number of mature trees meant the panels were spread out more than usual.
"The ethos of the company and ours was to do this as sympathetically as possible and we will carry on grazing exactly the same as before," he added.
"There is a big energy gap and we need to find new sources of renewable energy."
The scheme is just the latest plan for an array of ground-mounted solar panels and comes after it was revealed this week that the South West is now capable of generating 1GW of clean electricity.
Supporters say much more is needed and Energy Minister Greg Barker, wants a further 20GW (20,000MW) of solar power installed by 2020.
The site, at Pancrasweek, falls within the district of Torridge, an area described as being at "tipping point" in terms of the number of green energy projects by Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox.
At the same council meeting yesterday five separate wind turbine applications appeared on the planning committee agenda.
An 84m turbine, from base to blade tip, is planned for Glebe Farm, Hollacombe, as well as a 35m scheme at South Youlstone Farm, near Bude.
Bowden Farm, at Buckland Brewer, Bideford, has been earmarked for a 74m turbine, with a 25metre tower planned at Meadow Farm, Langtree, Torrington and a 45m construction at Winkleigh Farm, Winkleigh.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) opposes the Government policy to offer big incentives to developers and has objected to the application.
Dr Philip Bratby, a CPRE spokesman in Devon, said neither wind turbines nor solar parks can be relied upon to produce electricity "when demand is highest during winter evenings, when it is cold and dark and the wind isn't blowing."
He added: "Not only will these solar panels, enclosed by a huge security fence, industrialise the landscape, but they will inevitably result in increased fuel poverty and by removing farmland from productive use, they will also result in increased food poverty."
Julian Pertwee, business development director at Hive Energy, said the 60,000 panels would produce enough electricity to power 4,500 homes and over 25 years and would reduce carbon emissions by 500,000 tonnes.
"It is on grade-four land which can only support sheep and we are keeping all the hedges and trees," he added.
"Very few people will see it – it is a cracking site which I think stamps on the argument (that farm land is lost)."