Largest solar farm yet considered for Cornwall

Lower Wheatley Farm
Image caption Farmer Paul Daniel said he wanted to diversify at Lower Wheatley Farm, north of Launceston

Developers are considering building Cornwall's biggest solar energy farm yet.

Kronos Solar is talking to farmer Paul Daniel about putting the 25-megawatt solar farm across 120 acres of Lower Wheatley Farm, north of Launceston.

It would be about five times bigger than the largest solar farms currently in the county.

The local authority said Kronos was one of a number of firms considering 20-30 megawatt farms in Cornwall.

Germany-based Kronos said it would make a decision within the next few weeks on making a planning application.

It has already developed solar parks at Summercourt near Newquay and Boyton near Launceston.

A spokesman said its investigations were at a "very early stage" and the location and size of any possible proposal had "not been decided".

'Something from Mars'

He said the firm has been looking at land which was secluded, did not affect neighbours and complied with Cornwall Council's planning guidelines.

Cornwall already has 12 solar farms and there is permission for 24 more.

The largest existing solar farms in Cornwall currently have about five megawatts capacity - enough to supply about 1,000 homes.

Adrian Lea, manager of Cornwall Council's natural resources planning team, said a number of solar energy firms had shown interest in building solar farms of 20-30 megawatts capacity, although no formal applications had been made.

The end of a five-megawatt ceiling on subsidies and lower panel prices have raised interest among solar firms.

"Finding sites is going to be a challenge in Cornwall," he said.

He said the authority would ensure that the visual impact of any solar farm was minimised.

"Cornwall has an abundance of natural resources in solar and tidal to make our own energy," Mr Lea said.

Image caption Changes in the solar subsidies and lower panel costs has increased interest in large solar farms

"It is about balancing that to ensure we are as clean and green as possible without ruining our landscape."

But the idea has received some criticism from residents.

Brian Maltby, who lives at nearby Maxworthy, said: "We bought this place because of the lovely surroundings. This will make it look like something from Mars."

North Petherwin parish councillor Hilary Vincent said: "It is nothing like what we have got at the moment. I think it's too big. You cannot have something like that out of sight."

Mr Daniel said TB in his cattle and the need to diversify had prompted the move towards solar.

He said he would do everything he could to reduce the visual impact, including planting trees around the site.

He said: "Everyone needs energy. Everyone likes to go and switch their lights on, so why not?"

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