All-clear to build UK's largest solar farm in West
The UK's largest-ever solar project is poised to arrive in the South West as the region continues to lead the way on renewable energy.
Planning permission has now been secured to construct a solar plant with nearly 30,000 panels on a Devon farm, in the country's biggest project to date.
South Hams District Council approved the plans for a 37-acre site across five interconnected fields at Marley Thatch Farm, near South Brent.
The 28,000 panels will be set upon nearly 1,170 support tables, with space to allow room for sheep to graze between them. The completed eight megawatt project should supply enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.
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The council's decision letter said it had taken consideration of 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".
It was deemed that the application site "will not have a significant impact on the setting of Dartmoor National Park or the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
The council added: "The benefits of increasing renewable energy production in the South Hams have been carefully balanced against the concerns raised in forming this decision."
With the South West benefiting from some of the UK's highest levels of solar radiation, the ground-mounted panel sites will enable large amounts of solar energy to be produced.
The South West renewable energy agency, Regen SW, said solar power had grown significantly during the past year in the region.
Merlin Hyman, its chief executive, said: "We welcome large-scale projects coming to the South West. They are both secure and sustainable investments, with the potential to create jobs.
"Specific projects have created a strong brand for renewable energy, but we still have a long way to go to reach targets. Some of our elected representatives haven't yet realised the sea of opportunity to work with world-leading firms."
Independent renewable energy project developer TGC Renewables said it worked closely with the landlord and local authorities to develop the site.
Richard Buckpitt, the landowner of Marley Thatch Farm, said: "We had been looking to diversify the farm's income for a while, so taking the opportunity to develop a large-scale solar project made financial sense."
Rob Denman, TGC Renewables director, said: "This project is one of a number of large multi-megawatt schemes we have in development as we respond to the interest and demand from the farming community for renewable energy."