THE latest bid for a giant solar farm near Burnham and High-bridge has sparked a huge debate about whether the tens of thousands of panels springing up across Sedgemoor are causing an unacceptable blight on the landscape.
Wessex Solar Energy has applied for permission to build a massive 7MW solar farm on fields between Wool-avington and East Huntspill, made up of 33,000 panels over 18.6 hectares – the equivalent of around 30 football pitches.
Already this month Sedgemoor’s planners have given the nod to an even bigger 41,000-panel solar farm at Watchfield and have removed a condition so work can start early on a 4,000-panel scheme in Wedmore.
The Wedmore scheme attracted a great deal of support within the village but there were also many objectors.
Tony Edmunds, aged 70, who lives at Combe Batch in Wedmore, said it was a “disgrace” that so many solar schemes were being approved.
He told the Weekly News: “They are having a dramatic affect on the landscape. You cannot have carte blanche to put them up everywhere.
“I just don’t think it’s in the interests of the countryside – put them on brownfield sites.”
Wessex Solar Energy’s scheme is at Pyde Drove, 150 metres south of the River Huntspill.
County councillor for the Huntspill division, Mark Healey, said wind turbines and solar farms were huge talking points in Huntspill.
He said: “The majority of people I’ve spoken to agree we have got to look at renewable energy, and they actually see solar as the lesser of two evils.
“A blot on the landscape is going to be those huge wind turbines, not something at low level, where you don’t really see it unless you’re looking for it.
“Besides which, at least photovoltaic farms do actually work – wind farms do not deliver.”
In a planning statement, Wessex Solar Energy said: “The nature of the development is such that it will have relatively localised impacts when compared to a project such as a wind farm which can be seen over many miles.”
The firm says it is investing up to £7million in the project, and that Sedgemoor could receive up to £750,000 in retained business rates over the 25-year lifespan of the solar farm.
A consultation on the project closes on September 21.
If planning approval is given Wessex Solar Energy says it hopes to start work this autumn and finish early next year.