Planners Approve Solar Garden For St Martin’s

The field where ISREC plan to build the solar garden

A plan to install an array of solar panels in a former agricultural field on St Martin’s has been passed by planners.

The decision on the so-called ‘solar garden’ had been deferred in September to allow further information to be gathered and a visit to the site at Lawrence’s Bay by Councillors.

However, even though planning has been granted, the Isles of Scilly Renewable Energy Cooperative or ISREC, who applied for the scheme, say it may never be built due to changes in the Government’s Feed-in Tariffs for energy generation, which are set to be halved in December.

The proposed scheme for a 50kW array of 261 solar photovoltaic panels, mounted on a timber frame and measuring 46m by 8m would supply electricity for up to 13 households.

Chief Planning Officer, Craig Dryden, said in his report that worries about glare from the array affecting incoming aircraft had been dismissed by the airport manager.

However, Craig told Councillors he was concerned about additions to the electricity substation that will be required to connect the array to the mains.

It will need to be increased both in height and floorspace.

He said, while the solar array itself was well screened, the substation was in a prominent position on the main road and it was unclear whether this would require planning permission.

Craig said he would need to negotiate with Western Power about how the visual impact could be minimised, potentially by incorporating the equipment in the adjacent agricultural building.

Councillor Chris Savill said she shared Craig’s concern over the substation and wanted a clear condition added that no work is started on the solar garden until the appearance and site of the substation is clear.

Councillor John Goddard had concerns about the change of use of the site from agricultural to industrial use and thought there was little information on the long-term performance of PV panels. John was worried that sand blown onto the site during storms could affect efficiency.

He also wanted a guarantee that the panels would be taken down immediately if the array was no longer in use and Craig agreed to incorporate this as another condition of planning.

Councillor Ticehurst commented on the proposed interpretation panel, which will give visitors information on the solar garden. He wanted it sited on the main path so people would not stray into the field itself.