Larport Solar Farm

Welcome to the information page for our proposed Herefordshire solar project. It includes details about our current plans for the site, and ways to share your feedback.

The land identified for the solar project is to the south of the Clay Hill Pit Substation at Dormington, and has been chosen for its potential to deliver solar powered electricity. 

Project key facts

  • The solar project could have a capacity of up to 45MW (megawatts).
  • Generating enough to power the equivalent of up to 10,400 homes
  • Saving around 9,432kg of CO2 every year
  • Solar panels would be installed on around 40% of the total site area, but less than 5% of the land is actually disturbed.
  • The project is fully reversible and after 40 years the rested land will benefit from increased biodiversity and an improved ecosystem. The soil will be enhanced as it will be far less intensively farmed during this time.
  • As part of the planning process, Conrad Energy is required to demonstrate that there will be biodiversity gain on site.

Proposed design

Project timeline

Consultation

Drop-in session

We held a drop-in session for the local community on Wednesday 21st July. The project team listened to feedback and answered questions about the proposal.

Online consultation

We hosted an online consultation event on Wednesday 30th June to present more detailed information about our plans for the site and to answer your questions. Our thanks go to all those who attended. A recording of the webinar is available to watch below:

Our presentation slides from the webinar are available below:

FAQs

Why do we need Larport Solar Farm?

The transition to a clean energy system is necessary to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change to the environment, wildlife and humans. The UK’s climate change ambitions are amongst the highest in Europe and require us as a nation to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. More renewable energy generation is needed to meet these targets. Larport Solar Farm will offer an environmentally friendly, low cost and safe way of delivering clean power to the equivalent of more than 10,400 homes.

The solar farm is proposed for lower grade agricultural land and will be sensitively sited amongst woodland features. The solar farm can connect to the existing grid capacity to supply the local network and customers with clean power for local consumption, helping the Herefordshire County Council on its journey to becoming carbon neutral by 2030/31.

Who decides whether to grant planning permission?

Conrad Energy will be submitting a full planning application for Larport Solar Farm to Herefordshire Council, the planning authority for the proposal. In March 2019, Herefordshire County Council declared a Climate Emergency and is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030/31. This solar project will aid the county in achieving its targets.

How will the project connect to the grid?

Larport Solar Farm will connect at the nearby Clay Hill Pit Substation. No additional overhead lines will be required to connect the site to the grid.

Will the solar farm increase my energy bills?

Solar power is now one of the most cost-effective sources of electricity generation in the UK. The Government has decided that subsidies should no longer play any role in solar development, which is good news for the consumer. This means that Larport Solar Farm will not receive any government funding.

Will the solar farm improve biodiversity?

Solar farms not only preserve and protect what is there today, but also offer opportunities to enhance the space by allowing the land to rest without regular ploughing, fertilising and spraying with pesticides and herbicides.

It’s important to Conrad Energy that the area is improved for nature, and ecological enhancements are an integral part of the development plan.

At Larport Solar Farm this will be done by:

  • Ensuring a minimum separation distance of 2.5m between the panels to allow for biodiversity improvements, such as wildflower planting.
  • Planting and maintaining approximately 8km of new native hedgerow species such as hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn and field maple.
  • Planting additional trees with species such as field maple, crab apple and wild cherry.
  • Converting the entire site from arable to pasture, creating a wildflower meadow habitat where bees and pollinator species can thrive.
  • This will benefit a number of species groups such as farmland birds, amphibians, woodland and woodland edge bat species, brown hare, badgers and small mammals.
  • Conrad Energy respects local communities and designs projects sensitively, listening to local feedback. We would like to hear from the local community about their ideas for environmental enhancements.

What is the quality of the agricultural land on the Larport Solar Farm site?

Natural England’s provisional data suggested that the Larport Solar Farm site is situated on poor quality agricultural land (Grade 3). As part of the scoping report, Conrad Energy carried out an Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) Survey on the site, including soil sampling.

The ALC survey at Larport Solar Farm confirmed that the site is mostly Grade 3b (moderate quality). The site does suffer from some flooding in the autumn and winter months and as a result the selection of crops available to grow on the land is limited. The design of the structure and the foundations have specifically taken into consideration the predicted flood levels and will keep the infrastructure above this line. To counter this, and to minimise the visual impact of the site, we have reduced the angle of the panels to keep the overall height to below 2.5m.

Solar farms allow land to rest without regular ploughing, fertilizing and spraying with pesticides and herbicides. As well as benefitting from the rest from chemicals, we are required to demonstrate as part of the planning process that there will be a biodiversity gain on the site. Conrad Energy encourages the grazing of sheep, as well the siting of bee boxes and bird boxes on its solar farms, meaning that the potential for dual use of the land for electricity development and agriculture will be guaranteed.

The entire Larport Solar Farm site will be converted from arable to grassland and wildflower meadow habitat, offering a beneficial habitat for small mammals, farmland birds and woodland bats, as well as bees and pollinators.

Will the proposed gas turbine proceed at the site?

No, Conrad Energy have decided that the site is better suited to producing solar energy and as a result we will be pursuing the adoption of solar technology at Larport.

About Conrad Energy

Who is Conrad Energy?

Conrad Energy is the UK’s largest flexible power producer with over 600MW of generation across 45 plants. Our installations provide the backup needed for renewables to grow, while our development pipeline includes a growing list of storage and solar assets.

We are focused on building a better world for generations to come and our solutions support the UK’s energy transition to net zero.

How experienced is the team with solar projects?

Conrad Energy have a very experienced solar development team with many years and megawatts of installed capacity.

Our lead Project Development Manager on this project is George Hall, who has been in the renewable industry for 15 years. He has developed over 400 projects, including the UK largest Solar Car Port at Bentley Motors in Crewe, a 12MWp site at Hunters Race in Sussex, and a major project for J P Morgan Chase last summer.

Project overview and timeline

When will you submit a planning application?

We expect to submit a planning application for the project in summer 2021, on completion of a pre-application consultation period between June and July 2021. This seeks feedback from local residents before a design is finalised and we submit a planning application for a solar farm to Herefordshire Council.

Why is this site suitable for solar?

We have undertaken an assessment of solar irradiance, available grid connections and environmental sensitivities in the area which identified this site as highly suitable for solar development. The site is located in an area of flood risk with no high value agricultural land or constraints in terms of heritage, landscape or ecology.

This site benefits from an available grid connection at the Clay Hill Pit 66kVa substation on the western side of Clay Hill Pit Road. This means that electricity generated by the solar farm can be supplied to the grid efficiently, using the existing infrastructure, without the need to install lengthy underground or overhead transmission lines and cables.

Is there enough sun here for a solar farm?

Yes. While solar development was previously focused on the south of England, improvements in solar technology mean that an increasing amount of the UK is suitable, including Herefordshire.

How big is the site?

The total area of the application site is approximately 120 acres as viewed on the project layout plan. This includes areas for landscaping and biodiversity enhancements as well as the solar panels.

Will the area be fenced off?

The solar farm will be fenced using deer fencing and wooden posts with a height of approximately 2.4m.

Will the solar project generate additional noise and pollution to the area?

Solar farms do not typically generate pollution or significant noise outside of the temporary construction period. Any elements of the development which produce noise (e.g. transformers, substation, etc) will be located away from residential properties to prevent any impact on amenity.

Do solar farms increase the flood risk?

Because more than 95% of the land remains as grass, rainwater runoff from the site will not increase and the solar arrays will not displace any floodwater. We will engage with both the local Flood and Drainage Authority and the Environment Agency throughout the planning process to aid in the design of the scheme and mitigation measures. A full Flood Risk Assessment has been commissioned and will form part of any planning application we submit.

Environmental considerations

Are you proposing new trees or planting to screen the project?

Mitigation and screening will be built into our planning application. Following a landscape and visual survey and assessment, a planting plan will be produced. This will include new native hedgerow and tree planting to reinforce the existing green network and provide visual screening. We welcome feedback on this.

As part of the plan, we are proposing a new hedge line alongside an existing track to create a new habitat for wildlife and extensive planting around the buildings and new substation.

How will you improve wildlife and biodiversity?

We are developing the solar farm with the aim of delivering a significant net gain in biodiversity, and to improve the soil quality in the long term. Our ecologist is in the process of setting out a detailed habitat and biodiversity improvement plan to improve both of these important elements.

How will the local birds who use this site be protected?

Extensive ecological assessments of the site are being undertaken. In order to provide increased foraging opportunities for birds all year round, fruit-bearing native hedges and trees will be planted, and fallow strips will be added along field boundaries for winter foraging. Sensitive construction methods will be used to minimise disturbance to the bird population.

Construction

Will there be an impact on local traffic levels during construction?

Traffic levels and traffic safety are important considerations for a project such as this. As part of the planning proposal, a Construction Traffic Management Plan will be submitted which identifies the route to site and sets out the rules to ensure works can be conducted safely. For example, designated times of day to minimise congestion at busy periods, avoiding problem areas/times.

A solar farm can take approximately three to four months to construct. Most of the deliveries take place during the first six weeks. After the parts have been delivered to site, there are fewer vehicle movements as the site is built in situ and then made operational. Conrad Energy will be in communication with local neighbours, so you know what to expect and when.

Once the solar farm is completed, it requires very little maintenance as it will be remotely monitored by CCTV. It may be visited 6-12 times a year by a works van or 4×4.

What routes will the construction traffic use?

A Transport Statement will be submitted with each application which will set out construction routes and traffic management measures.

How long would the solar farm be there for?

The operational life of solar panels is approximately 40 years. After this time the site is decommissioned in line with the list of planning conditions attached to the decision notice. It takes approximately 4 months and is undertaken by the project owner.

Consultation and engagement

How can I keep up to date with project news?

You can register for updates on the project by emailing larportsolarfarm@conradenergy.co.uk, and we will keep you updated as we progress the plans.  We follow all GDPR guidelines in relation to personal data and you can opt out at any time.

What is the impact of Covid-19 on the projects?

We are following Government guidance in relation to Covid-19.  The Government have made it clear that investment should continue where possible, but that this should not be at the expense of community consultation and engagement.

It is our aim that our online consultation activities make our plans more accessible than before, but we are still available to chat by phone.

I have a question not answered here…

Please ask a question or request a call and one of the team will respond as soon as possible. You can email us on larportsolarfarm@conradenergy.co.uk

We encourage everyone who visits this site to provide feedback and comment.

For those who prefer to write to us, address correspondence to ‘Freepost Conrad Energy Ltd’ (no stamp or further address information required) and it will make it to our team who will respond to you.

What opportunities will there be to engage in the future?

A further opportunity to provide comments and feedback directly to the Herefordshire Council is available, after a planning application is submitted. Register your interest with us to be kept informed when our application is submitted.

Tell us what you think

We’d like to hear your feedback to help us shape our plans. If you have any questions please get in touch.

Email: larportsolarfarm@conradenergy.co.uk
Post: Suites D&E, Windrush Court, Blacklands Way, Abingdon, OX14 1SY

Please complete our feedback survey here