Ecosulis
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Case Studies

Energy

Project Name:
Three sites – Solar Photovoltaic Feasibility Studies
Client:
Infinite Energy
Year:
Dec 09, 2010
Keywords:
PV, Feasibility Study, Feed in tariff, renewables
Summary:
Introduction On the 1st of April 2010, the UK government brought in the Feed in Tariff (FiT) to encourage the takeup of renewable. The FiT is one of a number of ...

Introduction

On the 1st of April 2010, the UK government brought in the Feed in Tariff (FiT) to encourage the takeup of renewable. The FiT is one of a number of measures designed to assist with meeting our  obligations to cut CO2 levels by 20% by 2020 and increase the level of energy from renewables to 15%.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) is one of the renewable energy technologies supported under the FiT

Globally the size of the PV market has increased significantly since 2000, largely stimulated by the launch of policy mechanisms similar to the FiT. Installed capacity has risen from almost 1.5 GWe in 2000 to almost 23 GWe in 2009. Europe is the largest market, with almost 16 GWe of installed capacity (2009), representing almost 70% of the global PV at the end of 2009.

The UK is the last major western economy to implement its FiT, and, as a consequence, has among the lowest level of Solar PV installations, with only 10MW installed in 2009.  However this is set to change rapidly. Numerous companies have now realised the potential of this technology and the guaranteed returns especially in areas of high solar intensity (as shown on the figure to the right) have led to a land grab in the south west, and a rush to consent schemes before the potential review to FiT subsidy in 2012.

It is often suggested that Local Planners will rapidly accept this passive form of energy generation.  None the less, it is our experience is that for the majority of planning applications a methodical and appropriately detailed application greatly increases the probability of success.  Ecosulis have considerable expertise in promoting energy sector projects and the first stage of our work is often pre-application due diligence to screen and assess site feasibility.

Site Feasibility Studies

In this recent appointment we were contracted to appraise the feasibility of two locations for large scale solar arrays (circa 15 hectares) with an output of 5 MWe (per site).  The purpose of our appointment was to identify site specific constraints, potential show stoppers, consenting risks and the scope of a planning application for the two projects.

To be cost effective the reports relied on predominantly desk studies although a site visits was made by an experienced senior ecologist and a landscape architect.  The scope of the feasibility study covered the following areas:

  • Ecology – Designated sites, phase one habitat survey and the potential presence of protected species;
  • Landscape and visual appraisal (LVA) – Designated sites and site specific sensitive and visibility (including provisional zone of visual influence (ZVI));
  • Archaeology –desk based assessment of known statutory and listed sites; and
  • Environmental Planning – other designation and environmental information; for instance flood risk.

The report format was designed to include sufficient information to be used for pre-application discussion with the Local Planning Authority who had actually recommended Ecosulis as a suitable organisation to undertake the work. 

The reports were well received by Infinite and far from being an academic exercise identified a number of site specific constraints which, in term, have modified conceptual project design. For instance, for one site, due to the presence of a roman settlement (listed with the historical environment record), it is probable adjacent fields will be used to site the array to reduce pre-consent risk.

Ecosulis are now discussing the next stages of the project with Infinite and advising on the approach to EIA screening.  We have also developed a tool to appraise sites for PV development prior to the signing of options to identify potential show stoppers; the reports are offered with a guaranteed 72 hour turnaround and are priced highly competitively.

Since early 2010 Ecosulis have also been developing mitigation and planning strategies for this form of renewable technology.  We have critical appraised a number of lodged applications and Cornwall County Council informal guidelines. This review has raised interesting questions; for instance for a temporary development are some of the onsite ecological enhancement measures being proposed really appropriate? 

 

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