Novus has been continually improving its designs to limit the impact of the panels. Novus has reduced the maximum height of the arrays to under 2.50m. Many other sites use heights exceeding 3m.
The mounting structures for the array are all pile driven into the ground. There is no use of concrete and when decommissioned the frames are simply uprooted.
There are no permanent buildings on site. There will be some small transformer houses screened by the panels or trees around the site averaging in size 2m (H) x 3m (W) x 2.5m (D).
In addition there are a smaller number of larger electrical housing units, a switchgear house and a DNO substation measuring approximately 3m (H) x 6m (W) x 3.1m (D), normally situated by the site access.
There are no new pylons required. The electricity is transported via buried cable routes or utilising existing overhead lines.
There are no moving parts and no noise is generated by the panels once in situ. There could be some barely audible noise generated by the switch gear housed in an insulated container to diminish this possibility further.
The panels are light absorbing and rarely cause either glint or glare issues of any significance. In fact, they are less reflective than a body of surface water or household windows. Many airports have installed both ground and roof mounted solar panels and have had no issues with reflection.
The presence of panels does not increase the risk of flooding however all Novus projects incorporate a Flood Risk Assessment and our site designs build in mitigating features to minimise potential surface water run-off.
As no concrete is used in mounting the solar arrays there is limited impact on the hydrology of wetter sites. Increasingly solar arrays are being constructed on sites where drainage is an issue as it can be a more productive utilisation of the land than arable production.
The UK has an excellent climate for solar as it has relatively stable climatic conditions supporting the efficient functioning of the electrical generation equipment. Consistency of light and irradiation is key. Sites are selected specially with this in mind.
Solar sites do need some security in order to protect people, equipment and livestock. However the fencing used is stock fencing, in part to keep the sheep in, and the security equipment utilises a silent alarm with infrared monitors designed to detect human movement but allow for the continued grazing of the site.
There is no barbed wire, no spotlights and no ringing alarms.
Build duration is determined by the size of the project and the prevailing weather conditions. Generally we anticipate site activities taking up to 13 weeks with the bulk of the installation work carried out quite rapidly, so the disruption caused in construction is very limited.
Traffic loads are determined by the size of the scheme. Panels and electrical equipment (including the switch gear) are generally delivered by articulated vehicles to an easily accessible construction compound and then distributed across site by smaller vehicles. This means the bulk of the traffic is restricted to small periods of activity at the front end of the project.
Novus commissions a detailed traffic management plan prior to planning application submission which sets out the level of traffic anticipated during construction.
The majority of solar arrays continue to be used for grazing small livestock such as sheep and chickens and therefore remain a productive part of the food production pipeline. Novus follows guidelines encouraging solar developers to avoid most useable land where possible.
Once the site is complete there is little need for on-site human intervention, making the sites ideal for biodiversity and ecological enhancement programmes such as the creation of wildflower meadows. Non-technical site maintenance work would be carried out twice a year and technical equipment checks would take place annually. The only other visits required would be to deal with reported incidences requiring attention.
In reality some sites will be decommissioned and some will probably be reenergised with new equipment as the UK has a long term need for solar energy as a part of our energy mix. Decommissioning is a relatively straightforward process as there are no nasty or harmful residuals and the contracts that exist with landowners oblige the owners of the solar arrays to make right the sites when they are decommissioned. All of the equipment is recyclable and therefore has a value and will not be left to deteriorate.
A solar site is expensive to build but has very low operating costs. After it is built a solar site makes good returns even without any Government subsidy. Most sites will still be generating at more than 80% efficiency after 25 years thus making their operators a good revenue. Consequently it would not be in the interests of the site operator to walk away or fail to maintain their equipment. During the solar site’s life, cash is put aside to pay for any decommissioning costs enabling the site to be returned back to its current state.
As a power source, Solar is predictable and hugely sustainable.
Equipment is improving constantly so that more light is converted by solar panels utilising less land. There is also significant progress in energy storage which will allow distribution of power on demand. However daytime energy requirements are much higher than at night therefore solar is producing at exactly the right time of day to meet demand and, unlike other renewable energy solutions, will do so every day as soon as the sun comes up.
We are always interested to hear from property and landowners who wish to explore the possibility and benefits of a commercial solar scheme. Please contact us to discuss further.
Periodically, we will have opportunities for investing in community solar schemes. If you wish to find out more, please contact us to discuss further.