A LARGE solar farm consisting of 120,000 panels which will be built in the Dorset countryside will help reduce reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity, the firm behind it says, writes Martin Lea.

It comes after planning permission for a 40MW solar farm with battery storage capacity near Blandford was granted planning consent with conditions by Dorset Council.

The site will generate clean, renewable energy for the equivalent of around 10,605 homes a year. It will export energy to the grid for a minimum of 35 years.

A number of jobs will be created in the construction phase, with local suppliers used as much as possible.

Consultants Pegasus Group secured the consent on behalf of Voltalia UK, a global power producer and service provider in renewable electricity production.

The application, at South Farm, Spetisbury, is for the installation of a renewable-led energy scheme comprising ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays and battery-based electricity storage units.

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Voltalia UK has incorporated a permissive footpath within the scheme, which will join up two public rights of way, and will manage hedgerows and field margins to help wildlife.

It is said the project is well received by the local parish council and the application is supported by the National Farmers Union which said that it would help deliver viable and profitable farming to the area.

Livestock may continue to graze the land around and under the solar panels, and crops can be grown in future.

Simon Holt from Voltalia UK said: “We are pleased to have reached this milestone for an important renewable energy generation project, with a lot of support from the local community. The scheme will directly contribute to reducing reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity in Dorset and the south west in general.

“We have demonstrated that large-scale projects can be sensitively sited within the countryside and need-not have unacceptable environmental impacts. The South Farm project will not rely on customer subsidies to deliver clean electricity which makes an important step in the next generation of clean energy projects of this type.

He added: “As we move forward into the implementation phase this year, we will be looking for local partners to work with us to deliver this scheme and other UK projects.”

Colin Virtue, from Pegasus Group added: “Dorset Council has declared a Climate Emergency, and this project will make a valuable contribution to the generation of renewable and low carbon electricity at a local level."

Cllr Ray Bryan, chairman of Dorset Council’s Climate Change and Ecological Emergency Executive Advisory Panel, said: “We aim to work in partnership with many more businesses and organisations in the future to achieve our ambition of helping Dorset communities become carbon-neutral as quickly as possible.”