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Firm scales back solar farm plans as the grid can't cope
AN energy firm has said it is not planning any more solar farms in Oxfordshire because the national electricity grid cannot cope.
Green Energy UK Direct currently has two projects it is pursuing in the county, one in Culham and one near Bicester.
But operations manager Neil Banks said the company would now look to North England for future investments after dropping plans for five other sites in Oxfordshire.
Mr Banks said: “The feedback we are getting from the distribution network operator (DNO), SSE, is that the network is getting quite full.
“Many of the lines are filled up and so it is very hard to get good amounts of exports.
“The network needs major upgrades. That will take a lot of time and a lot of money. So we will instead look north of Oxfordshire in the future, where the better connections are.”
George Paton manages Landmead Farm near East Hanney, one of the UK’s largest solar farms.
He told the Oxford Mail: “In terms of big future renewable developments, there is very little that can now happen in Oxfordshire apart from what is already in the pipeline.”
The news was welcomed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which recently said a spate of applications in the county for solar farms amounted to the “industrialisation” of farmland.
CPRE member Michael Tyce said: “In our view it is the worst possible use of agricultural land.”
Green Energy UK Direct will this week submit the first of two planning applications for solar farms in the county.
It will detail the firm’s proposals for a site covering 40 acres of land, in Brook Farm, off Ploughley Road, Lower Arncott.
Mr Banks said the company would aim to have that considered and approved before the Government changes a solar electricity subsidy scheme for projects built prior to March 2015.
The second application, expected to be lodged in the summer, will be for a 10MW installation covering 50 acres of land in High Lodge Farm, Culham.
Scottish Electric Power Distribution spokeswoman Morven Smith said there was not a problem with capacity in Oxfordshire’s electricity distribution network.
But she said: “It may be that there are some reinforcements required in specific areas but it depends on the capacity the developer is looking for and spare capacity on that part of the network.
“It could be a small job like upgrading a transformer, or adding additional equipment at a substation or potentially a larger upgrade of new overhead power lines or sub stations being constructed. We have, over the last 12 months, been receiving a significant number of applications for solar farms and have been working with developers on that.
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