Work to start on UK's biggest solar farm at South Brent
The UK's largest solar project to date on a Westcountry farm has entered the construction stage, further cementing the region's position at the forefront of the burgeoning renewable energy industry.
Planning permission was secured in July to construct a solar plant with 28,000 panels on grazing land in South Devon.
The completed project should supply enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.
South Hams District Council approved the plans for a 37-acre site across five interconnected fields at Marley Thatch Farm, near South Brent.
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Now the company has announced that building has officially begun.
Renewable energy developer, TGC Renewables, announced the start of the 6.2megawatt (MW) project at a Solar Power UK industry event in Birmingham.
Rob Denman, director, said: "The development cycle of a large-scale solar park takes over 12 months and we are delighted that this project has now entered construction."
TGC Renewables has now developed and financed over 18MW of large-scale solar plants in the UK and plans to develop and build over 200MW in 2013.
It said the Devon scheme was the first commercial-scale, ground-mounted project to be connected under the current Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) structure.
The ROC stores details of how electricity was generated, who generated it, and who eventually used it.
Companies which generate more than their renewable obligation can sell surplus ROCs to energy suppliers who fall short, adding incentives to investment, TGC added.
Marley Thatch Farm will be constructed on a 15 hectare (38 acre) site, providing regular revenue over 25 years to the landowner, Richard Buckpitt.
He says the regular income generated by leasing part of his land has offered "a new diversification opportunity without financial risk".
The photo-voltaic (PV) panels will be set up on nearly 1,170 support tables, with space to allow room for sheep to graze between.
In granting permission, the council said it had considered the "detrimental impact" on landscape character, the potential of setting a precedent for similar projects, and the change in use from agricultural land.
But it did not consider these factors "overriding".
Merlin Hyman, Regen SW chief executive, said such large-scale projects were both "secure and sustainable" with the potential to create jobs.