Despite acknowledging that there is a need for renewables to become a more integral part of the country’s energy mix, energy minister Greg Barker has said this should not come “at any price”.
Speaking on solar energy, Barker said: “Solar has a big, bright future in the UK, but not in any place and not at any price. I want UK solar targeted on industrial roofs, homes and on brownfield sites, not on our beautiful countryside.
“The public are rightly keen on clean solar power but we mustn’t lose that support by deploying enormous arrays in the wrong places. Our new planning guidance will make this crystal clear.”
The government is keen to avoid solar farms becoming as controversial an issue as wind turbines, which continue to cause resentment amongst local communities. The latter have already been empowered to oppose onshore wind farms.
Debates surrounding the issue of solar developments on greenfield land are currently taking place in parliament and may bring an end to farmers allowing solar panels to be installed on their land. The process is reported to earn the farmers involved thousands of pounds in green subsidies.
Currently, there are more than 100 planning systems in the pipeline, but the new rights being offered to communities could see a reduction in the number being approved.
Wind’s of change
The coalition government is also set to issue revised planning guidance which will give local communities the option to veto the construction of new wind farms.
Last month, communities secretary Eric Pickles asked councils to take locals’ concerns and viewpoints into account before constructing wind farms.
He said: “Some local communities have genuine concerns that when it comes to wind farms, insufficient weight is being given to environmental considerations like landscape, heritage and local amenity.”
While the decision has pleased many groups, some industry insiders have expressed discontent about not being consulted before the guidance was issued.