Novus Renewable Services Ltd has been granted planning permission to construct a new solar farm on 76 acres of farmland near Milverton, Somerset. Despite objections from local residents, the project aims to address the rising demands for electricity and contribute to the expansion of renewable energy sources within the region.

The solar farm is expected to power up to 7,000 homes annually and will be operational for 40 years. The site, located at Preston Farm in Preston Bowye, will serve as a crucial asset to meet the growing energy needs of the area. Plans ensure that sheep will be allowed to graze on the land during the farm’s operation, and after its closure in 2064, the land will be restored for full agricultural use.

The decision by Somerset Council’s planning committee has sparked a debate surrounding the use of valuable agricultural land for the development of renewable energy sources. While some argue that preserving farmland for food production is essential for the UK’s food security, others stress the urgency of addressing the climate crisis and expanding renewable energy infrastructure.

Philip Knowles, a resident near the existing farm, expressed concerns over the loss of good agricultural land, stating,

“We currently have a climate emergency – how much longer before we have a food emergency as well?”

However, Dr Ian Gauntlett, a retired anaesthetist and Milverton parish councillor, emphasized the need for energy security in Britain, stating,

“We’re facing a massive climate crisis. Urgent expansion of renewable energy sources is absolutely essential.”

Somerset councillor Mike Rigby echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of new energy generation and finding a balance between renewable energy infrastructure and other forms of development. He stated, “I think we need a really good reason to refuse new energy generation in our area. I think this strikes the right balance.”

The solar farm will utilize agricultural land classified as grade 2 or grade 3a, indicating its fertility and versatility for crop cultivation. While concerns have been raised about the project, it is essential to note that ground-mounted solar panels occupy only 0.5 percent of usable farmland nationwide, whereas golf courses utilize four times as much land.

Source: BBC