HALL FARM SOLAR PROJECT
Having already secured the electricity connection agreements and land rights, REthink Energy will shortly apply for planning permission to use low grade land west of the village of Bridgham to install a solar farm capable of generating enough electricity to supply the annual electricity demands of 10,000 homes.
During our initial public consultation local people raised a number of points and some questions. In order to fully address these matters, the application was withdrawn and we have spent the last four months looking closely at the issues raised to ensure we can fully address the points made.
The following information is specifically about the Hall Farm solar project. For more general information and videos on the nature of solar farms and solar equipment, please see our FAQ download.
Hall Farm project overview
Hall Farm solar project will turn around 60 hectares of low grade agricultural land into a dual-use sheep grazing and renewable electricity generating farm. It will also dramatically enhance biodiversity which will have a positive knock-on effect on neighbouring farms.
Solar panels will be mounted in wide-spaced south-facing rows and raised one metre above ground to allow sheep to graze freely across the open site. Sheep grazing has traditionally been a vital component of the Brecks landscape and history and is a better way to farm such low quality land.
Across the site, wild grasses and flower meadows will be planted and, over time, all 60 hectares will be repopulated by native wild animals and plant life.
How will local residents benefit?
REthink Energy is pleased to be able to say that every household in the village of Bridgham has been invited to sign up to our new Local Electricity Discount Scheme which will subsidise the electricity bills of local residents. The scheme will contribute £1,000 per household over the next five years, a sum that we hope will bring welcome respite from the ever increasing electricity prices generated primarily by ever more expensive imported fuels.
Whilst our Hall Farm solar project will go some way to providing the space and specialised environment for such species to flourish, REthink Energy is not stopping there. It is also offering to establish a fund worth £200,000 for local conservation initiatives. See ‘How will local wildlife benefit?’ below to find out more.
How will local wildlife benefit?
To help local wildlife, REthink is offering to establish an independently managed fund worth £200,000 for local conservation initiatives. Dedicated conservation funds are essential to the preservation of national treasures like the Brecks landscape as there is no doubt that Breckland conservation is currently under a great deal of pressure. Recent research by the University of East Anglia found more than 2,000 species listed as priority for conservation in The Brecks alone. That represents 28% of the UK’s rarest species within an area covering just 0.4% of its land. (Source: “Wild Anglia Manifesto PT2”, September 2013).
Our proposal puts an immediate stop to the use of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers and also puts an immediate stop to the water abstraction for farming that depletes the river Thet during dry spells.
The land will be allowed to rest and recover naturally. It will be sown with wild grasses and flowers to encourage native species to flourish. Bees and other pollinators, so vital to the agricultural and economic success of nearby farmland, will be encouraged.
We have also worked closely with the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England to recreate a rare heathland habitat for the benefit of Stone Curlews and Skylarks and we have set aside another section of land, away from the solar farm and closer to the Stone Curlew protection zone that will be managed purely as a nesting and foraging ground for Stone Curlews.
The fields at Hall Farm are already largely screened from view by established hedging and tree belts. We have worked in consultation with a number of local ecologists who have advised us on a hedge reinforcement planting scheme that is consistent with the natural integrity of The Brecks landscape and will not only preserve its character but will enhance it by returning it to its traditional state.
As a result, the solar farm will not be noticeable even from a close distance along either High Bridgham Road or the Kilverstone Road.