York Councillors face climate change challenge

Officials want to reject a solar farm plan for Naburn Sewage works site

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In a week where most nations have been in Paris coming to terms with the need to cut carbon emissions, York Councillors will have the opportunity to take a small step forward next week.

They are being asked to approve a plan which would see the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) array in approximately 42 rows of solar panels known as strings, with associated infrastructure on a site adjacent to the Sewage Treatment Works (STW).

The planning application says, “Each string of panels would be mounted on a rack comprising poles pile-driven to a depth of approximately 1.5m, without the need for excavation. The panels would be mounted at around 0.8m from the ground at the lowest point at the southern edge rising to approximately 2.25m at the highest point, on the northern edge. Each string of panels would be between 3m and 7m apart. They would be tilted 22 to 35 degrees from the horizontal and orientated southwards”.

The facility would have a capacity to generate approximately 1.4megawatts peak. This energy would be used to directly provide power to the adjacent STW and would offset approximately 20-30% of the existing annual on-site demand. This equates to powering approximately 400 homes per annum with a saving of over 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

On the face of it, this would seem to be an easy win for the environment. The site is unsuitable for residential development because of the flood risk and the proximity of the sewage works.

It is unproductive land which is not cultivated.

The solar farm may not be a permanent feature for the site – technology moves on – and could easily be removed.

Officials are opposing the project on the grounds that the site is in the Green Belt and that the open views of the City (from the cycle track) may be adversely affected.

Given that the energy being produced by the farm will be used to power the sewage treatment works, many may conclude that this is a unique proposal which would not create a precedent for development in the Green Belt and that, in any event, the impact on “views” from the cycle track will be minimal

It will be interesting to see what conclusion the Council’s planning committee reaches next week.