Sustainable Charlbury

Questions and Answers

Second Public Meeting 28 November 2013

 

Will Cornbury allow the ‘screening’ hedges to grow?

They have already stopped roadside cutting next to the site and the question has been raised about hedge reinstatement and growth in a few other places

 

Is there any impact from noise?

Slight humming noise from invertors and gentle ticking sound as the panels heat up and cool down but no significant noise

 

At the end of the c.20 year life span, what steps will be taken to ensure the ecological removal of the site?

The site and the infrastructure will be removed and where possible recycled. The decommissioning of the site is part of the business model and the requirement will be to return the site to its original state

 

Will the project look to renew the park at the end of the 20 years?

An impossible answer to second guess but any application to do so would be considered from scratch by the planners. Whether an application was made would almost certainly depend on the success or failure of this current plan and the prevailing circumstances at the time

 

What about visual glare for drivers on the boundary roads?

The panels are designed to absorb light so do not glare, the panels are facing away from the road. Previous concerns from pilots have proven unfounded in other similar projects

 

What about the impact on honey bees (asked from perspective of commercial honey farmers)?

Advice from British Bee Keepers association is that the correct planting of plants and flowers around the panels encourages honey bees however, there is no definitive research on this topic as yet. The British Bee Keeper’s Association (BBKA) and the Bumble Bee Conservaton Trust have both formed partnerships with solar developers and are planning several large-scale projects where foraging habitat is established especially for bees. Clearly, providing food in the form of wild flowers at a solar farm will benefit foraging bees, but the question of whether the solar panels affect a bee’s behaviour will have to be answered over time.
We will follow up with British Bee Farmers Association as suggested by the questioner, they may have a slightly different perspective on impact.

 

What is the planned access to the site? And how long will it take to be built

From the existing layby on the B4022 It will take approximately 3 months to construct

 

What is the grade of the land

3B (low grade agricultural)

 

Will the fact that the site will become ‘industrialised’ mean that it could be re-graded i.e. ‘thin end of the wedge’ scenario?

No, the agricultural classification will not change. The notion of ‘creeper application’ (where planning consent for one project leads to another and so on) was discussed and rejected.  It was reiterated that the land must be returned to its original state at the end of the project.

As a community project there are no other financial motives other than those that benefit the local area and the people living in it


Will the electricity generated go into the national grid or direct to the local community?

It will be fed into the local distribution network. It is not possible to retain the electricity exclusively for the local community because of the nature of electricity – electrons are not distinguishable from other another. It may be worth considering the Community Buying Group schemes that are being adopted in some areas where communities club together to buy from one supplier to which Southill Solar could sell its electricity.

 

Concerned about the potential to change the character of the countryside (another TE of W question). Has the impact of a 30-acre site in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty really been considered? And if Southill Solar can do it, what’s to stop lots of others doing the same?

The plan is built around minimising visual impact. It is central to the plan.

Liz Leffman, district councillor, explained that all planning applications are considered on their own individual merit so no precedent comes into play. There have been previous applications from the Cornbury Estate for similar and other projects in the past and they were rejected.

Liz Reason – this project is not being put forward by a large-scale developer with plans to expand, it is a one-off community project

 

What might be included to specifically aid the bird life in the area?

Roosting and nesting boxes etc. Advice will be taken from the RSPB and help from willing volunteers will be gratefully accepted where appropriate

 

Can you expand on the annual Community benefit bit?

This will take the form of an annual return (payment) to the community towards projects to be decided, but with the main objective of reducing carbon emissions,  For example, The Wychwood Project for tree planting, car-share schemes, energy reduction schemes for local households.

 

When will planning be submitted

Hopefully January 2014

 

Will the site need security lighting?

If there is a need for any (not yet determined), it will be infrared, so not visible to human eye however, existing solar farms use infrared as part of their security system and if the security system is triggered then infrared lights and CCTV is activated within the site.
There is not a definitive answer as to whether animals see infrared (IR) light or not. However, most research suggests that IR is not visible to mammals, birds or insects. Many of these groups can see more of the light spectrum than humans, but they generally can see in the higher energy ultraviolet (UV) range than the lower energy IR range. Some snakes (e.g. pit vipers) use IR to hunt their prey but these snakes don’t occur in the UK. But we are not certain of the impact of infra red on other wildlife – it will be investigated as part of the detailed security analysis

 

How will the electricity be fed into the grid

Probably via the local substation which is adjacent to the site, or tapping into the existing overhead lines.  There will be no pylons as a result of the scheme.

 

Would it be eligible for Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Yes, it would qualify for (EIS) at the moment which provides tax relief.

as per current rules it would qualify for EIS and we would have to make an application for it, but it’s not guaranteed

 

A rough idea of how much capital needed to build the park?

5 million pounds

 

 If it is set up as a Bencom and investors make an investment at the outset, can they then sell shares at some point in the future?

There are two types of set up:

a)    Withdrawable i.e. shares can not be transferred but can be sold back to the project

b)    Transferable i.e. shares are tradeable

The specifics of this particular scheme have yet to be decided

withdrawable shares have a limit of £20,000 per investor and if the project uses only withdrawable shares it is exempt from FCA regulation. Transferrable shares have no limits per shareholder but the issue is subject to FCA regulation and it is therefore a more expensive process. In either case it is one member one vote (and not proportional to shareholding).

 

What is the lifetime of the panels and would they need to be replaced requiring more capital?

The panels are expected to last the lifetime of the project although they are likely to lose some efficiency over time.  Capital will be accumulated to replace the inverters after 10-12 years.

 

Are there management costs once the project is running?

Yes.  A new company will be set up which will  contract with external companies for running the project.   A management team will be employed should that prove necessary.

 

Will it be a not-for-profit company?

This will not be a company formed under the Companies Act but an Industrial & Provident Society, or cooperative, designed to deliver benefit to its members, and the community

 

Compared to wind farm investment scheme which is based on actual performance (electric generated), how will the return from Southill Solar be calculated?

The variance in wind is much greater than the variance in sunshine so it is much easier to formulate a realistic model based around overall sunshine hours which vary by +/- 7% a year

 

 

Q and A session ended with an appeal that when planning is submitted as many as people as possible write in support of the application

 

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