Frequently Asked Questions
1. Wouldn't the land be better used for growing crops?
The UK urgently needs to decarbonise its energy mix and boost its domestic energy security, which means developments like the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park are really important. Solar is currently one of the cheapest forms of energy and is quick to develop and construct.
Whilst the land wouldn’t be used to grow crops during the operational period, the landowner can continue to farm their remaining farmland. At the end of the operational period, the landowner would be free to farm the land once again, on better agricultural land with a higher organic carbon content having secured the diversification of their farming practice for generations to come.
2. How are we treating the land below and between the solar panels?
Land between the panels would likely be sown with a wildflower seed mix and left fallow to become a biodiverse rich habitat which would increase in organic carbon content over the lifetime of the project. The land wouldn’t be sprayed and would be in a better state for agricultural production once decommissioned. Following decommissioning, studies have shown that a field that has been allowed to lie fallow for just a year produces a higher crop yield when it is re-planted.
3. Could the land below and between the solar panels be used for growing crops?
The solar panel rows are spaced to maximise the amount of clean renewable energy generated, whilst allowing a net gain in biodiversity. Unfortunately, the spacing isn’t large enough to allow machines to sow and harvest crops.
4. Are we proposing to develop on high or low quality agricultural land?
The quality of agricultural land at the site has been scientifically classified as predominantly 'Grade 3b' and the rest 'Non-agricultural', meaning no Best and Most Versatile (BMV) land will be lost.
5. What makes this land better for a solar farm than other land in the area?
A large proportion of the site is on a former airfield, meaning it is partly brownfield. Some of the existing hardstanding areas, including the concrete runway, will be utilised as part of the development. There is also no Best and Most Versatile (BMV) agricultural land present at the site. In addition, there is significant separation from the nearest properties and the area is already naturally well-screened due to the topography and existing vegetation.
6. Why is the project so large?
The proposed development is designed to maximise the use of the site and availability of land, whilst minimising visual impact on the local area. Having one larger project is much more efficient than having several smaller projects.
Access & Construction
1. How many construction vehicles would there be?
If delivery vehicles were averaged out across a 24 month construction period, there would be approximately 8 ‘two way’ heavy goods vehicles (HGV) movements per day – equating to 16 daily movements.
2. How will construction traffic impacts be mitigated?
There are many ways that the impacts can be mitigated, including set delivery hours and speed restrictions on vehicles. More detail will be provided in the Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP), which will be submitted as part of the planning application.
3. What does solar farm construction involve?
Firstly, access tracks would be built throughout the site. These tracks will likely be made of crushed stone, which would be left to grass over in time. Due to the existing concrete roads and runway that are present at the site, fewer new tracks will be required, reducing the need for raw materials.
Once the tracks are in place, the supporting frames for the solar panels are pushed into the ground. The solar panels themselves would then be bolted on to the frames, connected up by underground wiring and the site then secured with fencing.
4. Where would the solar panels be manufactured?
There has been some media attention about the development of solar panels in certain countries, however, more and more panels are now being manufactured in countries like Germany, America and Canada. A commercial decision would be made at a later stage if planning permission is granted. Ridge Clean Energy is not tied to any particular manufacturer.
1. How high would the solar panels be?
The solar panels will be up to 3.5m at their highest point.
2. Why is the operational period 40 years?
Solar farms are temporary developments. We will be seeking development consent for an operational period of 40 years. Technology could look very different in 40 years' time, so it’s only right that the land isn’t left for solar generation in perpetuity.
3. What happens at the end of the 40 years?
After this time, the site would be decommissioned and all equipment removed. The landowner would be free to return the land to agricultural use. If anything else were to happen to the land, it would require a new planning permission at that point in time.
4. How often do solar panels and battery units need to be replaced in this period?
Solar panels are robust and would generally last for the operational period of the development. The battery units would likely be replaced every decade.
5. If more advanced solar technology comes along in that period, would you consider swapping out equipment?
One of the planning conditions accompanying any planning permission would likely set the dimensions and overall heights of the development. If new technology becomes available during the operational period, and it fits within the stipulated dimensions from the initial planning permission, then we could consider using the new technology if it increased output of the site and was economical to do so.
6. Does power from the solar farm provide a direct supply of energy to the community?
The electricity generated by the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park would feed directly into the local electricity distribution network. There may be times when this electricity is distributed to the local area, or it may be used more widely. However, there would not be a direct connection from the site to the local community.
7. Will there be any traffic during the operational period?
Once solar farms are operational they are very self-sufficient. The panels would be cleaned approximately once a year, which would take 1-2 weeks, given the size of the project. The site would have a general inspection once a month and undergo electrical safety checks twice a year.
All visits during the operational period would be conducted in small vans and therefore traffic impacts would be negligible.
1. Are there any hazardous materials associated with the proposed battery units?
The battery storage containers are sealed units with appropriate prevention measures in place to prevent, and if necessary contain, any leaks. They would also be placed on hardstandings to act as another barrier to reduce the possibility of any leakages. Information relating to this will be included in the planning application.
2. Are battery units noisy?
There is some noise from the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) parts of the battery systems, however, this noise reduces the further away from the batteries the receptor is. Given the distance to the nearest properties, we do not anticipate there will be any noise impacts on them. A full Noise Assessment will be provided as part of the planning application.
3. How does battery storage work?
The battery units are charged when the solar park is producing more electricity than it is allowed to export, this energy is then released to the local electrical distribution network during times of high demand to smooth the output from the solar development. The batteries can also import electricity from the local electrical distribution network when there is excess electricity, again releasing it during times of high demand.
4. What are batteries made out of?
The batteries proposed at the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park would likely be lithium-ion batteries.
5. Is it typical for solar farms to now include battery storage units?
Yes, this is a common practice which assists in smoothing the output from the solar park as well as the electricity grid. Battery storage projects are now common developments in their own right. They can also provide services such as frequency and voltage control, which is useful for the grid.
1. Would ecology be negatively affected by the development?
No - solar panels work really well with local ecology. Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park will result in a substantial net gain in biodiversity, through various ecological enhancements, such as hedgerow and tree planting. In addition, the soil under the panels will be left fallow, thereby increasing its organic carbon content.
2. Who would be responsible for managing the areas of ecological enhancement?
The site operator would be responsible for the management and maintenance of these areas, rather than the local community. There may be opportunities for local businesses to play a part in the maintenance of the site.
3. Will there be any noise from the development?
During the operational period, there will be some noise from the solar inverters, and from the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in the battery systems. It is important to note that there are strict noise levels that we must adhere to. In addition, noise from equipment dissipates with distance, therefore, given the site's distance from nearby properties, we are not anticipating any noise impacts. A detailed Noise Assessment will be submitted as part of the planning application.
1. How much is the community benefit fund?
The community benefit fund would consist of £500 per MW per annum. The current proposed solar export capacity of the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park is 240MW, so the community benefit fund would amount to £120,000 each year.
2. What are the goals of the community benefit fund?
The goals of the community funding are to help support and realise community-identified initiatives that will strengthen the local fabric and assist in achieving the community’s net zero goals. In addition, we will provide assistance to local groups in seeking grant funding from other sources with our contribution underpinning the fundraising effort.
3. How will the community benefit fund be distributed amongst local communities?
The distribution of the community benefit fund is still to be decided. Given there are several different communities who could benefit from the project's community benefit fund, we are considering creating a 'Community Benefit Panel'. This panel would consist of one or two representatives from each local community and would be chaired by our community engagement team.
4. How can we get in touch with views on how the community benefit fund could be spent?
We are collating the comments received to date to understand how the future community benefit fund could be best used. If you have any thoughts or ideas please email us.
1. Have you developed projects like this before?
We have been working since 2003 to create locally supported renewable energy parks in the UK – combining solar, wind, and batteries to maximise renewable electricity generation and, at the same time, creating local hubs to help communities on a path to net zero.
2. What other developments are you working on?
We currently have a portfolio of projects at various stages of the development process, throughout the UK. Take a look at our website for further information.
3. What happens if RCE goes into receivership?
One of Ridge Clean Energy’s main owners also owns one of the largest privately held companies in the US, with an annual turnover of more than $2 Billion. Ridge, therefore, has access to more than enough funding required to develop the project. Additionally, the project will be held in a separate special purpose vehicle. However unlikely, if something did happen to Ridge, the project would be a valuable asset that, once built, would continue to generate and sell electricity and therefore, would be financially viable. Operation of the project would comply with the planning conditions, for example, relating to the environmental management and decommissioning of the site.