Location and Access
The proposed renewable energy scheme is located south of Witney and west of the A415 at Ducklington. Vehicular access to the site may be gained from two roads off the A415: the Aston Road, and from the unnamed road leading to Curbridge.
Appearance and Operation
Solar energy is gathered by Photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are mounted on metal stands which are pushed firmly into the ground. The panels are arranged to face south to gather maximum irradiation from the sun. The energy gathered is converted to the form of electricity used by the National Grid and connected to the Grid to provide a renewable source of energy.
Green Energy and Climate Change
There is widespread awareness of the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and an encouragement to increase the generation and use of renewable energy. The UK Government has a legal obligation in relation to generating renewable energy and to reach net zero emissions by 2050. West Oxfordshire District Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in June 2019, and Oxfordshire County Council is targeting to deliver a carbon neutral County Council by 2030.
The proposed solar park will make an important contribution. The proposed installed capacity will be 36MWp and to provide some context, that will be enough electricity to power 7,843 homes annually and save 7,800 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Construction and Traffic
It is proposed to use both the northern and southern accesses off the A415,and to have a temporary construction compound at the Aston Road end of the site, and a temporary set-down area at the northern (Curbridge Road) end. Once construction is completed (estimated to take a maximum of 16 weeks) there will be minimal traffic during the operational period as the equipment needs only to be checked once or twice a month.
Landscape and Wildlife
The Ducklington Farm site is primarily in grazing use and fields have surrounding hedgerows. These hedgerows will be retained as part of the proposed development, and a stand-off from hedgerow habitat will be integrated into the construction proposals, together with creation of new wildflower areas. In addition, there will be new tree and shrub planting which will provide landscape enhancement and additional biodiversity corridors.
Within the solar PV area, a new grassland will be created and maintained to increase floristic diversity. This will help to increase pollen and nectar availability with consequent benefits for bees and other insects.
The grassland between and around the panels can continue in agricultural use, and sheep grazing helps to maintain the ecological value of the grass sward.
The ecological measures included in the scheme have been calculated to provide a Biodiversity Net Gain score of 14%, which exceeds the level expected in the Environment Bill, currently going through Parliament.
Public Rights of Way
The proposed design provides for construction access to the site from two separate locations, thereby minimising the need to cross the footpath which runs through the site. The route of the path will be unchanged, panels will be set well away, plus a new wildflower strip planted adjacent to the path, on the other side to the hedge.
Planning - Next Steps
A planning application is being prepared for submission to the local planning authority, West Oxfordshire District Council. This will include many technical assessments to assist the authority in considering the application. As part of the process, the authority will invite comments by a range of consultees. There is no precise time as yet for the submission although it is likely to be in early Spring 2021.
Visit our GET INVOLVED page to have your say as part of our pre-application consultation.