Local people shine a light on Penny Hill Solar energy scheme plans

July 2, 2015 | Community News

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Local people have been taking a first look at plans for a new solar energy project on the site of a South Yorkshire wind farm.

Renewable energy firm Banks Renewables is looking to install a 5MW solar photo voltaic (PV) scheme in the South East corner of its Penny Hill wind farm site, which sits to the South East of Rotherham and west of the junction of the M1 and M18.

Barlborough-based Banks set up an event in Ulley Village Hall to enable local people to provide feedback on the outline proposals to the project team and to ask questions about them, with around 35 people taking up the invitation to attend.

The proposed location has also been assessed as being the most ecologically suitable part of the Penny Hill site for such a scheme, and if the project goes ahead, it would be managed through the project’s 23-year lifespan in such a way as to encourage greater biodiversity, as well as support new and enhanced habitats for local flora and fauna.

If the project goes ahead, the existing community benefits fund linked to the Penny Hill wind farm, which is currently worth around £20,400 every year, would be increased by a further £5,000 annually, thus enabling Banks Renewables to deliver even more community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people.

The Penny Hill community benefits fund is ring-fenced for use within the parishes of Aston, Thurcroft, Treeton, Ulley and Whiston, and already has seen grants totalling over £40,000 made in support of organisations including The Friends Of Ulley Country Park, Swallownest Bowling Club, The Maelstrom Explorer Scouts, Ulley Sailing Club and The Ulley Millennium Trust.

And the event has already led to new applications being submitted to the existing fund.

Lewis Stokes, development relations coordinator at Banks Renewables, says: “Because this would be the first scheme of its type in the local area, there were lots of logistical questions from our visitors about how the solar scheme would be physically put together, how it would sit in the land and whether the area that it would cover would still be usable while it was in place.

“Being able to cover these questions off face-to-face is extremely valuable for both ourselves and our visitors, and ensures that we can provide comprehensive and accurate information about what we’re looking to do at the Penny Hill site.

“We had a range of views about the project on the day, but the potential increase in the community benefits fund was especially well received, and since the event, we’ve already had new applications from local groups looking to access it in support of their plans to improve their facilities.

“The proposals we’re looking to put forward would enable us to increase the annual amount available for local community improvement projects, and would help us make an even greater positive difference to the area by supporting projects that local people want to see actioned.”

Banks Renewables is designing the project to allow for its existing grid connection on the Penny Hill wind farm to be used for the new scheme, and is also looking at using the existing access tracks to further minimise any impact on the local community.

The part of the site on which the solar scheme would be located has been chosen as it is the furthest away from Ulley, and its layout would mean that the scheme would not be visible from most of that village or from the nearby village of Brampton.

Lewis Stokes continues: “How we generate the energy that we all use to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals in the future, and how we increase the proportion that is produced via renewable means are significant challenges facing the UK.

“We believe this is an excellent location for a scheme which would enable us to increase the amount of clean, green energy we produce at the Penny Hill site, and we will keep all interested parties up to date with the progress we make on developing our planning application.”

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