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Site Selection and Mitigation for Impact on Local Residents

Evolution By Natural Selection

The section of land at Trimmers Farm known as Beggars Corner has a history of controversy that has been a matter of concern for the local residents. The east end is an area of scrubby woodland that is a haven for local wildlife. As can be seen in the historical documents in this website there was extensive gravel excavation during the course of the construction of the M3 Motorway which left the land in a bad state. Subsequently it was used as landfill then capped. When the present occupier of Trimmers Farm took on the task of restoring the land he found himself with a big job on his hands and there is still work to do. In 2001 there was an application for a change of use to a quarter mile dirt surface race circuit which was refused and a similar application in 2010 followed by an appeal, both refused, for a change of use to a moto cross track. When you walk this rough land you see partially buried pieces of concrete, metal and wood. It is trampled by curious cattle occasionally but is largely unproductive owing the the cost and impracticality of restoring it without a reasonable expectation of any return.

The value of open land can be measured in a number of ways. We can appreciate it as countryside for its landscape value, we can measure its productivity for food production and we can value it for its ecological significance but farmland should be farmed in which case the return inevitably has to be measured commercially. How much per acre can we earn related to the work and cost of farming it? As it stands, commercially, Beggars Corner is contributing almost nothing.

If for example Beggars Corner was being intensively farmed for wheat, at best it would produce less than 2% of the energy we can produce with solar panels. Wheat production in the UK typically requires nitrogen fertiliser levels of 100-200 kg/ha.  This can lead to emissions of ammonia or NOx into the air and nitrogen compounds into groundwater. If this nitrogen is applied in the form of inorganic fertilisers very large quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere. This is because during the production of  these fertilisers methane (CH4) is converted to ammonia (NH3) by reaction with nitrogen and water vapour, with the release of the carbon as carbon dioxide (CO2).  This is both environmentally undesirable and expensive.

Therefore our intention is to maximise the energy return from this land by capturing the incident sunlight for conversion into electricity rather than into carbohydrate.

Site Selection and Energy Measurement

Several considerations influence solar farm site selection and renewable energy technology can only deliver where site conditions are favourable, specifically in areas with high levels of solar radiation and a gently sloping southern aspect. The Trimmers Farm site meets these conditions. The site must be economically viable in terms of the level of energy that could be generated and the cost of deployment including grid connection. Trimmers Farm meets these criteria for a rated capacity of 10MWp or more. The nearest connection point is 700 metres south of the south-west corner of the east field which renders the connection cost higher than ideal so for this reason it is necessary to utilise both the east and the west fields to generate the 10MW required to render the connection costs viable.

Sites must be suitable for development in the context of potential impacts on the environment. The Trimmers Farm site has been identified by the surveys which can be found in this website as having little or no significant impact on the environment with minimal visibility either to local residents or from a distance.

Solar Farm sites should use poorer land quality; grades 3, 4 or 5 so this landfill site with substantial power distribution infrastructure content above and below ground is ideal.

The potential for energy generation is calculated using a simple formula published by the the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), an industry-led and internationally recognised quality assurance scheme, supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. MCS itself is a BS EN ISO/IEC 17065:2012 Scheme and was launched in 2008. For further information on MCS please access the MCS website.

For this site the calculation tells us that the annual yield will be 9,360 MegaWatt Hours.

As a matter of note, if the sun shone for 24 hours a day an array of this size would generate 87,600 MWh. By the end of the lifespan of this installation it is likely that solar pv yields will be have increased by more than 400%.

Impact On Local Residents

There are two aspects to the impact on local residents, broadly impact during construction and impact over the 25 years of operation.

Impact During the Construction Phase

The Highways Agency was asked to visit the site at a very early stage of the development, subsequently providing information to help mitigate transport effects both locally and on the motorway during development and operation. All significant traffic movements that will affect local residents during construction will be through Potbridge to the south and a breakdown of the size and number of vehicles can be found in paragraph 2.1 of the Planning Application Transport Assessment.

It is envisaged that the construction phase will last for approximately 14 weeks. This equates to an average of two to three deliveries per day. Frequency of deliveries would vary, so an upper estimate of seven deliveries per day is envisaged i.e. two to seven deliveries per day depending on the stage of the construction. Delivery times would typically be between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday and between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays with no deliveries on Sundays or Public Holidays. In order to ensure that mud will not be deposited on Totters Lane three portable pressurised wheel wash stations will be located 5 metres back from gates 1, 2 and 3 as shown in Appendix 1. Siting the washers back from the gates will ensure that washing water will flow back on to the fields to soak away as normal. Water would be supplied from the existing on-site supplies as would power. This will ensure, as far as possible, that mud from the sites will not be deposited on Totters Lane. All three site entrance and exit tracks are hardened so vehicles will not be exiting directly off the fields.

To connect the site to the national grid a trench will be excavated running south for 700 metres from the sub-station located at the east field south gate to a 33kV supply line situated in a wayleave near Potbridge Farm. This operation is likely to be contracted to S.S.E. who would supply the relevant documentation when final grid connection details have been agreed. The proposed cabling details which may be amended by S.S.E. are contained in the main planning application Appendix2-1. S.S.E would be responsible for the disposal of spoil. The trenching and cabling operation will involve fencing off the west side of Totters Lane for 7 days but will not block the lane to domestic or emergency vehicles. Access to Totters Farm for a milk tanker will not be affected as this arrives and departs from the north end.

Impact During the Operational Period

It has to be said that hiding 40,000 dark blue solar panels in a field would be a challenge for any man. Fortunately the Trimmers Solar Farm site, as can be seen from the environmental assessments, is fairly well hidden from the south, east and west by the topology, vegetation and the motorway. Unlike the motorway, solar panels do not make any noise so in that respect it is more socially acceptable. There is no visibility at all from the north side. There will be visibility from Paynes Cottage which borders the south corner of the east field and the degree of mitigation using hedging to infill the existing hedging will be agreed with the occupants. There will be limited middle distance visibility from the road outside Potbridge House which sits right next to the south boundary of the motorway but none from within the property.

Photo montages can be seen in Section 6 of the documentation.

Motorway traffic will catch fleeting glimpses of the west field during a transitional visibility, most obvious to traffic travelling from west to east, of about 7 seconds for vehicles moving at 60 miles an hour.

As far as we can tell without access to the properties there is little or no visibility from Poland Lane or Poland Mill. The site is distant and hidden by the motorway.

Public Footpath 501, which over an observation period of nearly two years appears to be virtually unused, runs alongside the motorway from Beggars Corner to Totters Lane at the south-east corner of Paynes Cottage. The east field boundary fence will run at a minimum of 4 metres up to 8 metres from the hedge and will skirt the two old oak trees. Part of this strip of land is hardened being the original road from Hartley Wintney to Odiham and inspection of the old maps in our reports shows where it was broken to construct the motorway. The footpath will therefore be preserved and will provide extensive views to the west across the solar installation. We intend to install ecology programme signage along this path and there will be access gates to enable volunteers to maintain the track, the existing hedge and a further 500 metres of new hedging that we intend to plant bordering the fence, as a wildlife refuge. There are several birds' nests along the length of this hedge.

Public Footpath 729 runs north-south across the west field from the south side track to a tunnel under the railway. This path which will provide unique views of the panels from inside the installation will be maintained at a width of 4 metres conforming to the Rights of Way Act 1990. As with 502 we intend to install ecology programme signage along this path. Because this path is virtually unused by walkers it is difficult to establish its accurate course but best guess is that it follows the contour of the field as this would be the easiest way to walk the track. The marked course of the track is away from the brook by some distance so walkers respecting the boundary of the track would not have access to the banks of the brook. The brook warrants more attention from an ecological point of view and although it will be at least 8 metres from the boundary fence of the solar installation it borders our field boundary. Therefore if possible we intend to open up periodic access to the brook for countryside lovers and eco enthusiasts as our conservation project progresses. Further details of this process are mow only available upon application.

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