Common Farm FAQs
Why has Common Farm been chosen as a site for solar?+
One of the key considerations of the location of a solar farm is access to the electricity network. It is essential for solar farms to have access to a nearby electricity substation with sufficient capacity to accommodate the development. There is a substation at Thurcroft with capacity, just a few kilometres to the northwest of Common Farm. Other consideration’s also needs to be given to land orientation and topography or to ensure the solar panels will be exposed to sufficient day light. The land at Common Farm is relatively flat, with little shading meaning we can optimise how much renewable energy is generated.
We look at a wide range of sites across the UK to find the best sites for our renewable projects including agricultural and brown field sites wherever possible. Solar farms need around 100 hectares of land and we found that there are no other suitable sites close enough to the substation. Therefore, the lower grade farmland within the Rotherham’s greenbelt is the only option if a solar farm is to be located within Rotherham. Solar Farms represent one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy and therefore form a vital part of our energy mix if we are to meet the ambitious net zero targets set by UK Government.
Why are you using land that is currently used for food production for renewable energy?+
We understand that we must protect enough agricultural land to ensure food security. However, the issue of energy security in the UK is of equal importance – Common Farm can produce power for around 18,800 homes annually, that’s the equivalent of all the council owned homes in Rotherham borough council (Rotherham.gov, 2022).
While Common Farm is located on farmland, it is not located on the best and most versatile agricultural land. It is located within Grade 3b land, which is described by Natural England as ‘Land capable of producing moderate yields of a narrow range of crops’. Consideration has also been given to historical and environmental designations as well as wildlife habitats in identifying Common Farm as a suitable site. There are no designations present on site. What’s more, the site presents an opportunity to habitat enhancements which will help improve the wildlife in the local area. Land quality varies widely in every area. The Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) an independent and tried and tested method for assessing the quality of farmland to enable informed choices to be made about its future use and helps to underpin the principles of sustainable development. Best and most versatile agricultural land is land which is most productive and can best grow food crops as well as crops for non-food uses. Natural England’s ‘Likelihood of Best and Most Versatile’ (BMV) agricultural land classification was used at the site finding stage in order to identify search areas with moderate to low BMV within a few km of the substation– Common Farm is not on BMV land.
Renewable energy projects such as Common Farm help to tackle the overarching issue of climate change, which, if not addressed, will adversely affect food production due to more extreme weather events. Furthermore, solar is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy generation available, this cheaper energy has the potential to lower energy costs throughout food production supply chains.
Will Common Farm Solar reduce my energy bills?+
Renewable energy projects are a green and cheap alternative to fossil fuels, providing an indigenous solution to the energy security and climate crisis. The recent energy price crisis in this country has been largely down to the UK’s exposure to rising gas prices. However, renewable energy projects are reducing our reliance on gas – in 2021, renewable energy generation was responsible for 29% of electricity generation in the UK, this alone displaced around £6.1 billion worth of gas (£221 per household). (Luke, 2022) Solar is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy generation (Letcher, 2022), therefore, installing more projects like this should help to reduce future energy bills.
How will Common Farm Solar benefit my family and the local community?+
Common Farm will provide many benefits to the local community in addition to the environment benefits of generating green electricity. This project will be providing a generous community benefit package of up to £50,000 for local groups and projects each year. You, your friends, family and neighbours in the local area can have a real say on how this package could benefit your local community. The project will result in improved biodiversity in the area, by creating new and enhancing existing habitats for local wildlife. Finally, Banks Renewables will be investing £61.2 million into Common Farm, bringing direct and indirect jobs for local people and companies through our ‘Connect 2 Renewables’ initiative. This investment does not come from you, the public or added to your energy bills in any way.
Why can’t we use space on top of buildings to generate solar power rather than using agricultural land?+
Suitable roof spaces can, and should be used for solar projects, however, searching for these types of opportunities is more challenging. With these types of projects comes greater cost and difficulty from an engineering perspective. Owners of suitable rooftop areas usually look to develop these areas themselves, making these types of opportunities rare for developers such as Banks. Suitable roof spaces should be used in addition to appropriate green and brown field sites to achieve carbon net zero aims.
Weather patterns in the UK mean we will generate excess renewable electricity in the summer and less in the winter. Can excess electricity be stored so that it isn’t wasted?+
Yes. Common Farm will be co-located with a 50MW battery storage facility. Batteries such as this will be increasingly important as more renewable energy is connected to the grid. Renewable energy, by its nature is intermittent. Times of high energy production does not always correlate with periods of high demand. This battery will be used to store excess energy when the supply exceeds demand so that the batteries can release their energy when needed. This will help to stabilise the grid supply, assuring that supply can always meet the demand and you don’t have to worry about the lights going out.
How will the traffic in my area be affected during the construction of Common Farm Solar should it go ahead?+
A traffic survey has been completed to understand current traffic volumes and an independent assessment completed to understand if there is capacity to accommodate additional traffic generated by the development. Forecast construction traffic represents a 2% increase (at its peak) in total traffic along Long Road and only during the relatively short construction period (less than 1 year). The percentage increase was not considered severe in terms of the safe and efficient operation of the public highway in the vicinity of the site.
The development will create a new entrance to the site off Long Road and will include car parking facilities for construction and operational personnel to use when attending the site. Operational traffic will be minimal with one or two vans attending site per week.
There is a lot of rural crime in the area. How will you secure the site to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to budget?+
To reduce the risk of the site being targeted, fencing up to 2m in height will be erected around the parameter of the solar panel area throughout the Solar Energy Parks operational life. This will be deer style fencing with locked gates installed to allow access. Furthermore, security cameras mounted on poles between 3m and 5m in height will be positioned throughout the site. The cameras will use infra-red technology so there will be no need for lighting.
What impact will Common Farm Solar have on wildlife in the area?+
To ensure the solar farm benefits wildlife, as well as generating renewable electricity, we are keen to leave the natural environment on Common Farm in a measurably better state than it was beforehand (biodiversity net gain), resulting in an enhancement of the plant and animals already on site. The ground around the solar panels will be used to create a species rich grassland and increased planting of hedgerows and field boundaries will bring both wildlife and landscaping benefits. Wild bird strips are proposed to support biodiversity and part of the site has been designated to benefit Lapwing – and the inclusion of bird/bat boxes around the site will encourage species to thrive. We will work with local environmental groups wherever possible to ensure we can maximise what ecological and environmental benefits the Common Farm project could bring.
What will happen to the solar panels and the land once decommissioned+
Common Farm solar and battery storage park is proposed with a lifespan of 40 years. After this, the site will be responsibly decommissioned meaning all of the equipment on the site will be removed. Due to the low intrusiveness of solar farms, the land will return to agricultural land after the project is decommissioned. The solar panels themselves are made from widely recycled materials such as aluminium, silicone and glass, meaning they can be recycled into new products and even new panels after the project. The panels can also be reconditioned, then reused/resold for other projects. Our goal is to have zero waste going to landfill by following the waste hierarchy.