Big solar must not “ruin it” for industry says Greg Barker

Large-scale solar projects on “inappropriate” sites must not be allowed to “ruin it” for the rest of the industry, says Energy Minister Greg Barker. Speaking after an appearance at Solar […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Large-scale solar projects on “inappropriate” sites must not be allowed to “ruin it” for the rest of the industry, says Energy Minister Greg Barker.

Speaking after an appearance at Solar Energy UK in Birmingham yesterday, he told ELN: “I am being very, very explicit. Large scale solar farms in the wrong place potentially could ruin the sector for everybody.”

The Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle said: “The solar sector currently enjoys very high public approval ratings – that’s great, I want to keep it that way.”

A ripple of anti-solar sentiment from the likes of comedian Griff Rhys Jones has prompted the Solar Trade Association to issue its own version of the Ten Commandments for solar projects. These include focusing on non-agricultural land, working with the community and minimising the visual impact of farms.

The minister suggested projects on prime agricultural land or an area of outstanding natural beauty would not be tolerated: “People… do not want to see great swathes of British countryside ruined by inappropriate solar farm developments.”

However one firm has told ELN opposition to large-scale solar farms from some people is pure ‘nimbyism’ and warned it would make things difficult for larger solar projects.

The UK has a target of getting 15% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and the Government’s new “roadmap” released yesterday points to the energy source’s clear role in hitting this.

Despite his stern warning Mr Barker said he believes there is “a new degree of optimism” among solar power firms: “The solar sector in the UK has put the troubles of that threat of punitive sanctions on imported Chinese panels behind it. I think we’re in for a period of sustained growth.”