Two solar farm projects in Chichester area dropped

Plans for two solar farms in West Sussex have been dropped – but other projects are on the horizon.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 4:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 4:51 pm
West Sussex County Council has focused on renewable energy projects such as solar farms

Some £2,000 was spent looking at two sites, in Easthampnett and Hunston, near Chichester, to house the farms and battery storage, but neither will go ahead.

At a meeting of the county council’s performance & finance committee on Wednesday, members were told the Easthampnett site was too small, while there were grid capacity issues at Hunston.

Michael Jones (Lab, Gossops Green & Southgate) described the losses as ‘a great shame’, adding that the solar farms provided ‘great revenue’ for the council.

But the meeting was told that detailed feasibility work was being carried out at a site in Horsham Road, Crawley, while a closed waste site in Halewick Lane, Sompting, was at the planning/business case stage of development, with a decision expected in June.

Both sites would be for battery storage, with Halewick Lane being the larger.

A spokesman said such live energy projects brought in more than £1m for the council coffers.

The council has solar farms successfully operating in Westhampnett and Tangmere.

Leader Louise Goldsmith said: “It is one of those things that we know it’s a good thing to do, it’s providing energy and giving us a return.

“As long as the sun keeps shining we know that the money will keep coming in, so that’s alright.”

She added that a former waste site at Baystone Farm, Horsham, was being considered for use as another solar farm.

The spokesman said: “All of our capital projects are subject to detailed feasibility work and must have a robust business case.

“Income generating energy projects are required to set out how they will repay the construction cost and deliver target revenue return.

“Given the scale and complexity of these projects, it is inevitable that some will prove to be less viable than others once initial feasibility work has been completed.”

Explaining the problem at Hunston, he added: “Constraints on the local electricity grid – ie, inability to connect sufficient generation or battery capacity in a certain location due to the need for significant, time-consuming and costly upgrade work – are a common reason why energy projects may not progress beyond the feasibility stage.

“At Easthampnett there was not enough physical space to install a financially viable solar PV system [the cells used convert sunlight into electricity] due to the number of wayleaves, watercourses and services identified beneath the land.”