Plans for one of Suffolk’s largest solar power plants, to be built on high-quality farmland just west of Ipswich, have been submitted. The plans, by little-known energy company ENSO, sprawl across 242 acres adjacent to Burstall, Somersham and Flowton and will dominate the attractive rural landscape a few miles from Ipswich. In parallel, French energy giant EDF Renewables has announced plans to build another solar installation between Bramford and Bramford Tye, covering another 202 acres. The rolling hills will become an industrial site.
CARE Suffolk (Community Alliance for a Rural Environment), a group of local residents and experts, today called for the schemes to be abandoned.
“We support renewable energy” said CARE Suffolk Chair Samantha Main “but these schemes add little to UK energy supply while causing unacceptable environmental damage and undermining food supply. Worst of all, the power grid in East Anglia is already oversupplied and can only use the small amounts of power produced by lowering generation from wind farms. The scheme is madness – we are putting steel and glass on fields that we need to grow food, ruining areas important for leisure and tourism”.
The plants would be built on land which is zoned for agriculture. “This is not a friendly alternative to housing; housing could not be built there,” Ms Main added, “and the schemes are huge, for example each is ten times as big as the new 23 acre Eastern Gateway Industrial and Logistics Park.”
The planned construction period will last more than nine months requiring heavy traffic including HGVs every day down country lanes, especially in the neighbouring villages of Little Blakenham, Somersham and Burstall, and see construction right up to the boundary of people’s homes.
ENSO’s initial plan rejected using the narrow road through Burstall village and plotted a new temporary road across fields from Flowton. But at the last minute it has abandoned this, and will funnel HGVs through Burstall. “This last gasp change of plan shows how badly thought out the ENSO plan is” said Ms Main.
The ENSO plant would have 10 feet high solar panels, which track the sun. The EDF Renewables plant would have fixed panels up to 13 feet high. The ENSO plant would require the installation of 20 shipping containers with potentially up to 400 tonnes of batteries per scheme that pose a serious risk to our health and quality of life, as well as another 16 shipping containers dotted around the countryside. “If there were an incident and one were to catch fire” said Ms Main “it would burn at super high temperatures and emergency services would simply lack the water supply to extinguish it. We are asking ENSO how it would manage the plumes of toxic smoke, and hope that Suffolk Fire Service will be asked to provide an independent risk assessment”.
Time is short. Local planners in Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils will decide within a few weeks whether to approve or reject the plans.