This website provides information related to a planning application for a solar farm on the Gwent Levels. The application is being submitted as a Development of National Significance (DNS) project. This means that it will be examined by the Planning Inspectorate, who will then make a recommendation to the Welsh Minister based on planning merits and national priorities. The Minister then decides whether or not to grant permission.

 

This website will act as a point of information and contact throughout the application process. Updates on the progress of the application will be published on this page and relevant documentation will also be made available. Interested parties are invited to engage throughout the process and comments can be submitted to the applicant via engage@Llanwerncommunityenergy.com

Background information

The outlook for the Renewable Energy industry has been less certain since the election of the Conservative government in 2015 which set about dismantling the policies put in place by Labour and sustained through the coalition by the Liberal Democrats.  After March 2017 there will be no support for new solar farms and the solar industry will be excluded from the energy auctions run by the government.  These will principally subsidise new nuclear (with spent fuel disposal paid for by the taxpayer), new gas power stations (carbon-emitting), small diesel generators (highly polluting)  and off-shore wind (high cost).

 

It was particularly regrettable that the government chose to halt the growth of the solar industry when it was very close to being able to survive without subsidy support. Therefore there are many risks in setting out to build a solar farm now.  However it is the belief of the applicant and those in the Gwent Farmers’ Community Solar Scheme that good sites will be able to proceed as economic propositions because they are able to generate electricity at the market price.  The site at Llanwern is good as it has large scale, low costs and can deliver high generation. Work on the site started in 2014 with the support of the NFU Cymru.  In March that year the Gwent Farmers’ Community Solar project was established and preparation for planning has been underway since.

The site has some unique advantages.  The first is the high irradiation which the site benefits from which will drive high levels of solar generation.  The coastline here in South Wales has a high solar irradiation (1230 kWh/m² vs UK average of 1100 kWh/m²) and its location on a south facing coastline it benefits from secondary irradiation or “bounce” where light “bounces” off the sea up into the atmosphere and is then reflected down by particles in the air.

This together with a micro-climate which sees Llanwern getting considerably less rainfall that in the hills just a few miles to the north produces excellent light conditions for generation. The second is the capacity of the local electricity network to accommodate a substantial new generator.  Elsewhere in the UK the electricity grid is under severe constraint and is rarely able to accommodate new large generators without substantial and costly upgrades to the network which then make the projects unviable.  Llanwern and the area around it benefits from very large scale electricity transmission assets which have considerable spare capacity.  These were in the main put in to serve the requirements of heavy industries which once existed along this coastline but are now no longer in operation.

The third is that the land around Llanwern on the Gwent Levels is drained salt marsh of low agricultural worth.  Today, a successful agricultural enterprise needs land with an Agricultural Land Classification of 3A or better and of at least 120 acres and preferably larger.  The land here is Grade 3b and grade 4, the latter of which is defined as “Land with severe limitations which significantly restrict the range of crops and / or level of yields.”  Add into this mix the fact that most of these Levels farms are less than 100 acres and it can be easily seen why this is a rural community in need of investment and economic diversification.

 

If this project proceeds then it will directly benefit twelve farming families giving them a stable income from a portion of their land, enabling them to farm the remainder with greater security.  In addition the local community will benefit both from the trickle-down effect of the money coming into the local economy and from grants made by the scheme direct to community projects.

The renewable energy hub

The renewable energy hub seeks to provide green energy for over 15,000 homes and save over 21,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. It will enable a group of local landowners to diversify their agricultural enterprise and help secure their livelihood during uncertain times for farming communities.

The site is located on the Gwent Levels, to the south of the former Llanwern Steelworks site which closed in 2001. The land is of poor agricultural value and the scheme would provide an enhancement to the biodiversity of the area. Sheep would graze the site, which would maintain the agricultural use of the land. The incorporation of a battery storage area will allow for the energy captured during the day to be stored and re-used during times when energy is in greater demand and make the most of the energy generated by a renewable source.

The plans have been carefully prepared, taking account of important ecological features and the visual impact of the scheme. The suite of evidence gathered through this work will be compiled within a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Meaningful community engagement has been maintained throughout the preparation of the plans and the views of interested parties can be submitted using the contact details provided.

project related Documents

Contact Us

Please get in touch if you require any further information. Interested parties are invited to engage throughout the process and comments can be submitted to the applicant via

engage@Llanwerncommunityenergy.com

engage@Llanwerncommunityenergy.com