The Meadow Blue solar scheme will be constructed on farmland at Merston, near Chichester. It will comprise of 5MW of solar photovoltaic panels, mounted on a steel racking system, which in turn sits on shallow steel screw pile foundations to minimize ground impact. The panels sit above the ground to ensure that sunlight reaches the grass below the racking. The site will be protected by security fencing and CCTV.
Once operational – projected to be early 2016 – the Meadow Blue solar scheme is expected to produce 5,157MWh of electricity per year, sufficient to meet the annual electricity consumption of 1,235 homes typical homes¹. The site will be regularly maintained, both in terms of its equipment, safety and security, and also in terms of its landscaping and biodiversity: hedges and woodland areas will be managed; as will habitats for birds, reptiles and small mammals; as well as ensuring species-rich grassland areas are sustained beneath panels.
One of the key aspects of the development is that it is reversible and will be removed from the site at the end of its life. The planning permission granted by West Sussex Council is temporary, and the planning conditions include the requirement to remove all equipment from the site after 25 years, as well as the requirement to build up a decommissioning fund from the scheme’s revenues to pay for it. When the solar scheme is decommissioned, the piles can be easily removed from the ground allowing the site to return to its current form, if desired. Its agricultural value and potential will not have been diminished as a result of its use as a solar farm, and its biodiversity and habitat richness will have been enhanced.
¹ Estimate based on most recent statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change showing that annual UK average domestic household consumption is 4.170 kWh