Public consultation over solar farm plan on Manston agricultural land

Solar farm proposal

A  public consultation will be held next week to share plans for 41.55 hectares of agricultural land in Manston to be used for a solar farm.

Industria Solar Hengrove Ltd proposes to install a solar farm on land at Hengrove Farm. The proposal consists of two separate agricultural parcels totalling 41.55 hectares, interconnected via an existing farm track.

Industria says the proposed development would be capable of generating up to 30MW (Megawatt) of renewable electricity and would be operational for 40 years, after which the site would be returned to full agricultural use.

The firm says the energy supply would be enough to meet the needs of around 9,458 homes every year and save approximately 6,114 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

On a consultation page Industria says: “Our design seeks to minimise the scheme’s impact on our neighbours and the environment within and outside the site. Existing and proposed trees and hedgerows will help screen the solar farm from view, while quiet and safe state-of-the-art technology would help protect local amenity, including that of public right of way users.”

The proposals include substations and a workshop building

To transfer the electricity to the local distribution network, a transformer would be connected to the national grid DNO (District Network Operator) substation which contains switchgear, isolation, and metering equipment.

The site’s substation, the DNO’s substation and the workshop building would be painted in a recessive green colour to help them appear less visible within the landscape.

Traffic generation during the operational phase would be limited to approximately one 4×4 vehicle a month to enable an engineer to carry out periodic maintenance checks. no external lighting is proposed.

The construction and operational access to the solar farm would be via Manston Road. This is currently a farm access.

A deer fence would be installed on the inside of the hedgerows – this is instead of using an industrial looking security fence. Mammal gates will be located across the perimeter at regular intervals to allow for the free movement of local wildlife.

The firm says its proposals include planting 2.6 miles of native species hedgerow, 0.5 miles of new woodland belt, a new wildlife pond, and four acres of cereal crop habitat for corn bunting. A wildflower meadow would be seeded beneath and around the solar arrays to the benefit of pollinators, insects, and birds.

The hedgerows are proposed to be planted around each field parcel and the woodland belt, 10m wide, is proposed on the north east and north west boundaries of the eastern land parcel..

Each field would be seeded with a local wildflower mix and the wildlife pond would be along the eastern corner of the solar farm

No Public Rights of Way would need to be closed either during construction or during operation of the solar farm.

A Community Benefit Fund is also being proposed. If the project was to become operational, Industria says it would put forward a contribution of £85,000 towards Manston Parish Council, with the aim of funding projects in the local community.

This fund has not yet been discussed or agreed with Manston Parish Council.

Industria Solar Hengrove Ltd is part of Industria Brand Energy Ltd – a renewable energy development company that works with landowners around the UK. The site would be leased long-term to Industria Solar Hengrove Ltd, guaranteeing the landowner a  long-term form of income at a time of spiralling food production costs.

Industria says this would provide financial support to continue producing locally grown food from within the landholding.

The solar energy produced is either transferred directly to the National Grid or sent direct to some of the UK’s largest companies.

Industria says: “In the past 24 months, our energy portfolio has produced enough to power 140,000 homes, saving 500,000 tons of CO2. By proposing schemes such as Hengrove Solar Farm, we continue to play a major role in the fight against climate change by contributing positively towards a low carbon future, while creating the habitats that local wildlife needs to thrive again.”

The Industria website says land rental agreements result in a £1.5m upfront payment ‘based on a compliant solar farm’ and the creation of 100+ jobs during the construction phase.

The firm is seeking views before it submits a planning application to Thanet District Council in mid-August.

An in-person consultation event will take place on Thursday 20 July between  4pm and 7pm at Manston Village Hall, Preston Road, Manston.

An online consultation is currently running and can be found here

Solar panel technology

A solar panel, also known as a photovoltaic panel (PV panel), consists of many cells made from layers of semi-conducting material, most commonly silicon. A flow of renewable electricity is created when the PV panels receive sunlight. The cells do not need direct sunlight to work and can work on cloudy days. An inverter then converts the energy from the solar cells into electricity.

A row of solar panels is also known as a solar array. The types of solar panels being proposed for the Manston site are bifacial, meaning they also absorb light reflected onto the underside of the array. This makes them more efficient than conventional arrays and therefore require less land. Bifacial panels also allow wildflower meadows to thrive beneath them as any excess light shines through the panels onto the ground beneath.