The vision for a net carbon zero Wokingham Borough is starting to look a lot closer now as Wokingham Borough Council shares its ideas for a new solar farm in Barkham prior to submitting a planning application in the next month.
“Tackling climate change is incredibly important for Wokingham Borough and its residents," said Cllr Gregor Murray, executive member for resident services, communications and emissions “We’ve committed to achieving net carbon zero by 2030 and finding ways to generate renewable energy within the borough forms a massive part of our plans.
“Solar energy offers a fantastic opportunity to help us address climate change. Not only is it truly renewable, but it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, is quick and easy to install and runs silently with minimal maintenance or running costs once in place."
The proposals, which would see solar panels installed on council-owned farmland adjacent to Barkham Ride (High Barn Farm and part of Brook Farm), would generate around 23 to 32 MWh’s a year depending on final layouts, producing enough energy to power thousands of homes and businesses across the borough for years to come.
The solar farm would also save around 6,325 Tonnes of CO2 a year when compared to using traditional fossil fuels.
Cllr Murray continued: “During the past months we’ve been surveying the land and working with solar farm experts to fully understand the site and how it might work. We have also made the existing tenant farmers aware of our plans and continue to discuss options with them moving forward.
“We wanted to share our plans with residents before we submit the planning application as we know people will have lots of questions about what’s proposed. We’re keen to give them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts, especially given the importance of sites like this in addressing climate change.
“We know some people may have concerns such as if the scheme would mean lots of new cars travelling to the site, if it will be noisy whilst it operates or if it might make the site easier to change to residential in the future. The answer to all these is no. After it’s installed the site would only require the occasional visit from engineers and the equipment is designed to be quiet. The planning status of the land would also remain unchanged with it reverting back to farmland after the solar farm reaches the end of its lifespan in 40 years.
“We’re also aware from other similar applications in the borough that some people worry about the visual impact of solar farms like these on the look of an area and this will always be harder to address. In the majority, the lay of the land and existing hedgerows and trees mean the panels won’t be visible in all locations and, where they can be seen, we will be working with planning to look at whether we can add more planting or screening to reduce impact. However, we also have to remember the massive importance of schemes like these, which generate clean and green energy, in tackling the climate emergency and making decisions that will strike the right balance to protect future generations.”
Further details of the proposals can be viewed by downloading the Barkham Solar Farm leaflet on the council website at www.wokingham.gov.uk and searching for Climate Emergency. Comments can be submitted until Friday February 26 to CommercialProperty@wokingham.gov.uk. Feedback made will help shape the planning application and any final designs.
The council’s climate emergency action plan includes four solar farms to be built across the borough, each anticipated to generate enough energy to power 5,000 homes.