South West has most of UK home solar panels
Almost half of the UK's large-scale solar energy farms are sited in the South West, an official report has revealed as ministers warned their expansion should be "sensitive" to public opposition.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) yesterday published a report hailing the 25-fold increase in so-called solar PV capacity in just three years.
But many communities in the Westcountry have resisted the "green" power – arguing they will cause a "wasteland" in the countryside.
The Decc report, Roadmap to a Brighter Future, predicts a four-fold increase in solar power from now until 2020, with Energy Minister Greg Barker even contending Britain "can go faster and further".
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The report acknowledges the South West has the highest number of solar panels in homes in the UK. It goes on that estimates suggest 44% of large-scale solar can be found in the region.
But despite the ambitious target, Mr Barker insisted that new solar installations "must be sensitive to public opinion and mindful of wider environmental and visual impacts".
The plan stresses new solar PV installations will need to be appropriately-sited, give proper weight to environmental considerations such as landscape, heritage and local amenity, and provide opportunities for communities to influence decisions that affect them.
Mr Barker said: "The coalition is committed to delivering the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs, at the lowest possible cost to consumers.
"Solar PV can play a central role in meeting this challenge. It's a genuinely exciting energy technology which has already seen rapid growth and enjoys strong public support.
"I want this growth to continue and to help us push further ahead in the global race – but new solar installations must be sensitive to public opinion and mindful of wider environmental and visual impacts."
The Westcountry has been targeted with plans for solar farms covering up to around 90-acres.
In July, Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston secured a House of Commons debate amid concerns among politicians from Devon and Cornwall.
MPs say they should be placed on roof tops and brownfield sites rather than rolling hills.