PRE APPLICATION PRESENTATION – 06/03/2012
Notes of a briefing held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Lowestoft
on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 6.30 pm
D Ritchie (Chairman), S Allen, P Ashdown, M Barnard, N Brooks, P Collecott, D Coulam,
P Flegg, J Ford, K Jenkins and C Punt
R Amor (Principal Planning and Enforcement Officer), S Hubbard (Planning Officer), B Reid
(Principal Service Manager for Planning and Building Control) and N Wotton (Senior Committee
Mr A Connelly and Ms J Wall, representatives from Lark Energy
PROPOSED SOLAR FARM AT ELLOUGH
The Chairman outlined the procedure for the meeting. He reminded Members that it would be
inappropriate for them to give an opinion on the proposal, although they were more than
welcome to ask questions and inform the developer of any particular issues of concern. It was
noted that the presentation and the answers to any questions posed by Members were provided
by the applicant and were not the views of Waveney District Council.
Lark Energy, a subsidiary of a house building company based in Lincolnshire, had been
established for over 2 years. Due to increasing fuel prices, scarcity of fossil fuels and climate
change, there had been a significant increase in the use of renewable energy in recent years
and a mixture of renewable energy technology was now required to meet demand. Currently, 67
giga watts of solar energy were produced each year globally, with 1 giga watt being generated in
The national Renewables Obligation was designed to encourage the generation of electricity
from eligible renewable sources in the UK. Energy suppliers can meet their obligations by
presenting Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) which are given for renewable energy
production. If they do not have sufficient ROCs to cover their obligations because they are not
producing enough energy by renewable means, they can make a payment into the buy-out fund,
which is then shared out with all energy suppliers in proportion to how many ROCs they had
presented. Solar power was now able to use the same ROC arrangements as wind farms, which
provided a level playing field regarding all renewable energy technologies. Although there had
been some recent reductions to the feed in tariff for providing solar energy, it was still a viable,
environmentally friendly option.
Solar power uses photovoltaic panels to harness the power of natural daylight, not sunlight, in
order to produce electricity. An acre of photovoltaic panels provides more energy than an acre
of ground planted with crops grown for energy, such as oil seed rape. Solar panels produce no
noise or emissions.
The solar panels would stand between 2 and 3 meters off the ground on steel frames, which
were angled and south facing to attract the maximum daylight available. The steel frames would
be secured between 1.2 and 2 meters deep in the ground to provide stability. The solar arrays
would be spaced between 8 and 9 meters apart to avoid casting shadows on other solar panels.
This means that there would be space underneath and between the panels, which could be used
for animal grazing – sheep, geese and even bee hives were often kept alongside the panels, and
will improve biodiversity in the area. Members were advised that solar panels would be quickly
assimilated into the landscape and could be hidden from view by planting. It was anticipated that
the solar panels would last for approximately 25 to 30 years and they could be easily removed at
the end of their lifespan, which would allow the land to be returned to agricultural use. Members
PRE APPLICATION PRESENTATION – 06/03/2012
were assured that Lark Energy would not build solar farms on high value agricultural land,
conservation sites or anywhere near concentrations of housing.
All solar farms would require good transport infrastructure in place to enable lorries to get to the
site during the construction phase. A security fence and CCTV would also be required due to
the expensive equipment on site. There would also need to be small buildings on site to house
the inverter, which would convert the electricity produced from DC to AC, and a transformer to
alter the voltage. With regards to the maintenance of the site, it was anticipated that there would
be an annual inspection, which would last approximately 2 to 3 weeks each March or April and
would consist of checking the connections and cleaning the panels.
Members viewed some maps and photographs of the proposed site and were advised that the
decision regarding the exact location of the solar farm had yet to be finalised, therefore the maps
were deemed to be commercially sensitive at this time.
Where was the nearest electricity substation? Ellough Industrial Park.
Would pylons be required to transport the electricity generated by the solar panels? No, only
underground cables would be used.
Would a maintenance team be required to support the site? Ground maintenance would need to
be undertaken on a regular basis. The company that built the site would have a long term
maintenance agreement in place and they would also need to have a store of replacement
components locally. It was anticipated that local contractors would be used.
What would the stands be made of, which support the solar panels? Galvanised steel.
How large would the site be? It would be a large site – 150 acres.
How would the electricity be fed into the national grid? The electricity would be taken
underground via an electric cable and would eventually be fed into an overhead pylon which was
already in place. The options for this were still being explored.
Where are the solar panels made? Almost all solar panels are made in China, very few are
Who would install the solar panels? The installation would take anywhere between 4 to 6
months, although times do vary between sites, with the intention of using the local workforce and
sub-contracting the work and ongoing maintenance to local businesses.
What is the timeframe for this development? It was anticipated that a formal application would
be submitted for consideration in April or May 2012. If permission was granted, work to build the
site would take place over the winter months in order for the site to be operational in 2013.
Would all of the lorries bringing materials to the site go through Beccles? A construction
management plan would be created to look at the transport issues and Lark Energy would work
closely with the Local Authority to minimise disruption to local residents. The maintenance of the
site would only require the use of a 4x4 vehicle, however if a replacement solar panel was
required (which was rare), that would need to be transported via a lorry.
What would happen if the solar panels were struck by lightening? There would be a complex
earthing arrangement in place for each individual solar panel and an earthing system would be in
place to protect the solar farm as a whole.
PRE APPLICATION PRESENTATION – 06/03/2012
How has the quality of the land on this site been graded? Lark Energy had employed an
independent specialist to survey the land and highly scientific methods were used which included
looking in detail at the soil composition, soil drainage and crop history.
How many landowners are involved in the proposed application? 4 landowners were involved in
the proposed development and the lock out agreement had recently been signed. The
documentation was currently with Lark Energy’s legal team.
Would the land still be eligible for various farming grants? Yes, the farmer would still be able to
claim the single farm payment for the land in between the solar panel arrays. Lark Energy was
in contact with DEFRA in this respect.
Have you been in contact with the Sky Diving business located at Ellough airfield? Not yet, a
public consultation would be taking place in the near future. It should be noted that solar panels
do not interfere with radar or cause glare which could disorientate pilots.
Do the solar panels get dirty? The solar panels are designed to self cleanse. Also, they will be
thoroughly cleaned using de-ionised water during their annual maintenance check.
Did you take the newly created Enterprise Zone into consideration when choosing the location of
this site? Yes, Lark Energy did not wish to use the valuable land within this particular zone, but
have located nearby to use the electrical infrastructure already established locally. The energy
generated by the solar panels would also be consumed locally.
Has the price of solar panels fallen to its lowest level or will prices fall even further? Prices have
fallen by around 60% and they have no further to fall. The market is very fluid at the moment
and there had been some over-production of solar panels. It was anticipated that prices would
increase again over time.
Will the farmers need to apply for a change of use for their land? A change of use would not be
needed as the land between the solar arrays could be used for grazing, therefore the land would
retain its agricultural designation.
Would the security fence surrounding the solar farm be monitored? There would be CCTV in
operation 24 hours a day and there would be security guards at the premises during the
construction phase, due to the expensive equipment which would be on site at that time.
Who would actually do the development work? Lark Energy undertakes all of the preparatory
works associated with the development until the application has been formally approved. The
development opportunity is then sold on and is often bought and then developed by banks and
pension funds. They will then pay for the rest of the development which includes a long term
maintenance contract. Heavy fines can be issued for non-compliance. The developer will also
need to pay into a decommissioning fund to help pay for the site to returned to its original state.
The majority of the components of the solar farm were valuable and would be completely
Would the developer have to make a contribution to the proposed Beccles Relief Road? No,
because the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) applied only to buildings and would not include
solar farms. It was noted that in the past Lark Energy had offered to undertake small scale
works in parishes local to their solar farms and they would be in contact with the local Parish
Councils in due course. It was also reported that Lark Energy was still in negotiations regarding
the parcels of land, therefore the exact site of the solar farm had yet to be finalized.
How many applications have been successful in the past year? In total 4 applications were
approved last year- 3 of the applications have been completed and are now operational. The
remaining application had been approved but work had not commenced due to some difficulties
PRE APPLICATION PRESENTATION – 06/03/2012
involving the developer. Lark Energy planned to set up 3 proposed applications in 2012 and
another 3 in 2013.
How long will the development take to build? Each one varies but they usually take 4 to 6
months, however some have taken less than 3 months. It was anticipated that local companies
and people would be used to construct the sites, rather companies from overseas.
What would happen if the solar panels were covered by snow? The solar panels would not work
when covered in snow, however any snow would melt quickly. Little solar energy would be
produced during December or January, so it would not make a significant difference if there was
snow fall during this time. The majority of solar energy is produced during the summer months.
Do the solar panels become less efficient over time? Solar panels do degrade and they lose
around 0.5% of their productivity each year. Solar panels are easily repaired and parts could be
replaced for greater efficiency following improvements in technology in the future.
High voltage electricity pylons are known to cause health problems for people living nearby. Is
there a similar effect with the generation of solar energy? There is no evidence or anecdotal
information to suggest this. All of the cables removing the electricity from the site will be buried
so there would be no concerns regarding human health, if the proposal was approved.
Are there any issues regarding the availability of sufficient electricity for use at the Ellough
Industrial site? The Principal Service Manager for Planning and Building Control advised Lark
Energy to contact the Principal Service Manager for Economic Regeneration in this respect, to
see if the current and future businesses on the Ellough Industrial site could work together for
their mutual benefit.
Councillor Ritchie thanked the representatives from Lark Energy for their interesting and
The meeting closed at 7.35 pm.