The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) are the latest sector body to respond to recent criticism of solar farms made by Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.
Speaking at a recent event Liz Truss said that “our fields shouldn’t be full of solar panels”, vowing to change planning laws to restrict the development of “paraphernalia like solar farms”, and follow pledges to “reduce green levies”. Mr Sunak meanwhile highlighted the need for Westminster to understand the needs of rural communities by “making sure our fields are used for food production and not solar panels”.
These comments have naturally led to “deep concern” across the renewable energy sector, at a time when an urgent acceleration in the deployment of renewable energy technologies, including solar, are vital to combating both climate change and soaring energy costs.
Mark Sommerfeld, Head of Power and Flexibility at the REA, said:
“The language used so far over the course of the Conservative leadership race regarding solar and land use is deeply concerning, and the REA urges the candidates to recognise that solar farms do not encroach on agricultural land.
“The solar industry aims to work in conjunction with, not against, agricultural use of land, commonly by either building on marginal land or ensuring multi-land use applications.
“In doing so, it provides additional revenue to farmers – supplementing, not stopping, more traditional livestock and arable farming activities.
The comments from the leadership hopefuls also seem to stand in stark contrast to public feeling on renewable energy, with a recent survey from BEIS themselves finding that over 80% of the public would be happy to have a large scale solar farm built in their local area.
The REA’s words follow similarly scathing comments from Solar Energy UK‘s Chief Executive Chris Hewett:
“Solar farms offer cheap and clean power and time and again have been proven to be popular with the public. Yet the two candidates for Prime Minister are falling over themselves to say how much they dislike solar farms. How did we end up in this alternate universe?”
“There is a vast swell of capital ready to invest in in new solar farms. They cut our carbon footprint, displace extortionately expensive fossil fuels, cut bills, create jobs, benefit nature and bolster the nation’s energy security. Generating our own, home-grown electricity means we reduce our dependence on Russia and the Middle East. This is patently in the UK’s strategic interest.”