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Comment - Local Stuff

A green opportunity by David Flint

A recent report by Jenny Jones shows that London lags behind the rest of the UK in solar power and that, within London, Enfield comes 21st out of 33 boroughs. It has just 1.5 megawatts (MW) of solar power. That's a horrid result for a borough with an enlightened sustainability strategy and a whole set of lost opportunities.

But there is a way to jump ahead.

Enfield Council has been asked by a private company to allow the construction of a large array of solar panels on Sloemans Farm (which lies between Whitewebbs Lane and the M25). It will be a big plant - 15 MW. That's ten times Enfield's current installed capacity and equivalent to about 4,000 house roof installations. It would increase the solar power capacity in the whole of London by 30%.

We discussed this at our July 2014 meeting. We decided to support the application because of the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels. And if the Council takes a positive approach it can generate green jobs. Perhaps even new green businesses.

We recognise two disadvantages of the scheme but believe these to be outweighed by the benefits.

There would be some loss of arable land
The application relates to 25 hectares of land of which 10 hectares would be covered by the panels. The rest seems to be space between panels, paths, trees, hedges and buildings for power equipment. It's at least possible that some of the 15 hectares could be used for grazing.

However, the land is more important for power generation than for agriculture. It is four millionths of the UK's arable land but it could generate twenty millionths of the UK's electricity.

The land is in the Green Belt
The main function of the Green Belt is to prevent urban sprawl. The building of houses etc. is not allowed in the Green Belt but some development, eg for farming and recreation, is.

We believe that solar arrays should be allowed in the Green Belt because:

  • they are not urban developments (urban land is far too expensive for large arrays)
  • the array could be completely removed at the end of the its economic life (25 years) and
  • the scheme could actually improve biodiversity
If treated as permitted development a solar array would not set a precedent for the loss of Green Belt land.

First published in the EGP members newsletter, July 2014

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ