May 13, 2024

Wales Plans Largest Solar Farm for 100,000 Homes

Plans for what could become the largest solar farm in Wales, situated in the Gwent Levels, are advancing with projected energy that can power 100,000 homes

400 MW of Green Solar Energy To be Produced

The initiative, spearheaded by Future Energy Llanwern Ltd and situated south of the Llanwern steelworks vicinity near Redwick village, endeavors to generate enough sustainable energy to meet the needs of over 100,000 households.

According to Wales Online, this initiative has secured financial support from NextEnergy Capital, a major global solar investor managing $3.9 billion in solar assets and having developed or acquired over 400 projects so far. A formal consultation with the local community is slated for later this year.

The project is expected to be able to produce up to 400 MW of green solar energy, or enough energy to power 108,000 households.

Linking to the National Grid

Extending across Monmouthshire and Newport local authority jurisdictions, the solar farm would link to the National Grid through a substation in Whitson. Future Energy Llanwern intends to disclose additional specifics about the project, such as its dimensions, expenses, energy output, and battery storage, in the upcoming months.

Given its size, the UK Government would categorize this solar farm as a nationally significant infrastructure endeavor, with input from the Welsh Government. Over its anticipated 40-year operational span, the project aims to allocate £10 million (£250,000 annually) toward local initiatives via electricity sales and provide complimentary electric vehicle charging stations for nearby residents.

Future Energy Llanwern stated that the project's progress isn't reliant on future government energy price guarantees. However, funding decisions for the scheme will be made closer to construction. They emphasized their awareness of the environmental sensitivities of the site and their experience in implementing solar energy projects in the area.

Fully financed and possessed by NextEnergy, the solar farm underscores its dedication to environmental conservation, particularly given its placement in the ecologically delicate Gwent Levels region. Specifics regarding solar panel specifications will be determined during the construction period, leveraging advancements in panel technology.

Solar Panels to be Installed

Regarding the number of solar panels, it mentioned that a specific panel specification hasn't been chosen yet due to rapidly advancing panel technology. Therefore, this decision will be deferred until the construction stage, making it impossible to determine the exact number of panels at this point.

Paul Griffiths, Monmouthshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and economic development, stated that the council will thoroughly review any planning application submitted.

The council aims to position Monmouthshire as a leader in the green industrial revolution. It will carefully consider both the potential impact of the development on renewable energy supply and its effects on the unique local ecology.

Other Solar Projects

NextEnergy funded a functioning solar farm in Llanwern, operated by a company sharing directors with Future Energy Llanwern, namely Elizabeth and Peter Vyvyan-Robinson. These directors, with financial support from NextEnergy, are also attempting to revive another solar farm project at the Gwent Levels through Wentlooge Farmers’ Solar Scheme Ltd.

This project, involving 250,000 solar panels on a 129-hectare site, was previously rejected by the Welsh Government in 2021, despite a recommendation for consent in a report from an independent planning inspector. The rejection was due to concerns raised by Lesley Griffiths, the then Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs, about its impact on a landscape of significant historical interest.

However, Future Energy Llanwern's spokesperson stated that Welsh ministers have acknowledged a legal challenge, admitting to unlawfully refusing the previous application, leading to the quashing of the previous decision. Consequently, the Wentlooge application is now set for reconsideration.

The development of Wales' largest solar farm, supported by local and global investors, signifies a significant move towards sustainable energy production, promising to power over 100,000 homes and benefitting the region economically and environmentally.

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