1828: Opposing solar farms isn’t Nimbyism – it’s energy realism

This article was published on 1828.

I’m 21 years old. I would like to be able to afford to buy a house one day. So, inevitably, I deplore Nimbyism. As I have written on this site before, the scourge of local councils blocking new developments, leading to house prices continuing to skyrocket, is outrageous, and my generation are suffering the consequences.

Having said all that, there is at least one type of development which local authorities would do very well to resist: solar farms.

There is a new trend of applications for planning permission to convert huge swathes of British farmland into so-called ‘solar farms’. Effectively, perfectly farmable land is set to be covered with thousands and thousands of solar panels.

Some areas are seeing more solar farm planning applications than others, but the phenomenon is widespread across the country. In Hampshire alone – a particularly hard-hit county – there have been no less than 28 different sites subjecting to solar farm applications since the start of 2020, covering a whopping 3,500 acres.

One proposed 200-acre solar farm by Enso Energy across six fields on land near Silchester’s Church Lane Farm and Bramley’s Vyne Lodge Farm in Hampshire is equivalent to 140 football pitches. If planning permission is granted by the twelve members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Development Control Committee, it would become the fifth largest solar farm in England and the largest in England on agricultural land.

But it probably wouldn’t hold that record for long, because of the sheer volume of solar farms, many of them enormous, which seem to be in the works around the country. Before long, the UK will be one giant solar panel visible from space.

Renewable energy may be our long-term future, but for now, it is simply not viable. The technology just isn’t there yet. Switching our grid to renewable power sources now would, if it were possible, be ruinously expensive.

At a time when our energy bills are already skyrocketing at an alarming and painful pace, the last thing we need to be doing is switching to even more costly methods of creating and storing power. Instead, let’s allow the technology to innovate behind the scenes and come back to it when it is scalable and ready for use.

In the meantime, it ought to be crystal clear that as much as we might like to turn off the fossil fuels tap tomorrow, we can’t. The choice we face is not between natural gas and renewable energy. Instead, we must choose between Russian gas and British gas. The pressure on the government to get fracking will only grow. It’s common sense.

Nuclear power is also a key part of the answer to our energy woes. The recent long-awaited approval for the Rolls-Royce mini reactor is a good start, but it goes nowhere near far enough. If we are serious about detaching our energy needs from Russia and moving away from fossil fuels altogether, we cannot do it without nuclear.

If our threats against Russia are to be credible – if we want Putin to believe that our economic sanctions and decoupling from Russian exports is our long-term plan, not just a flash in the pan – then we must be serious and realistic about our energy needs.

Even solar power’s most ardent proponents cannot credibly argue that it is the solution to keeping our homes warm any time in the foreseeable future. Let’s stop giving up acres and acres of our farmland chasing a pipe dream.

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