Massive solar farm could cover half of former RAF Coltishall site

A huge solar farm could be installed at the former RAF Coltishall site. Picture: Mike Page. A huge solar farm could be installed at the former RAF Coltishall site. Picture: Mike Page.

Sunday, May 4, 2014
9:58 AM

A massive solar farm, which would be one of the biggest in England, could cover half the former RAF Coltishall site, with a mystery developer in talks with council bosses about the proposal.

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Norfolk County Council bought the former air base for £4m in January last year and, as part of its vision for what might happen at the 600 acre site, a 50 acre solar farm was proposed.

But, the council says further investigation has established that, with the electric supply grid in Norfolk at capacity, the necessary 22km cable to connect the Coltishall site to Norwich would cost millions of pounds.

That makes a small scale farm unviable, according to council officers, so to recoup investment a much larger scheme would be needed.

And a renewable energy developer has approached the council seeking a 25-year lease on up to 300 acres (120 hectares) of grassland to run a large scale commercial solar farm.

At a size of about 170 football pitches, it would be the biggest in Norfolk and one of the largest in England.

Taking up half the site, tens of thousands of photo-voltaic panels would generate 60 megawatts of energy - enough to power more than 18,000 homes for a year.

The council says it cannot reveal the identity of that developer - or how much such a scheme would cost - for commercial reasons. But they have drafted in specialist advisors from Deloitte to help officers carry out due diligence on the proposal.

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “This is an exciting prospect for several reasons. Clean solar energy is one of the few things that has near universal acceptance, and solar farming, although not the traditional type of farming we are used to in Norfolk, does have the advantage of not permanently altering the geography and nature of the landscape - indeed, I’m assured that sheep can safely graze under the solar panels.

“I very much hope that this project will pay dividends and deliver both clean energy and a healthy return on the council investment.”

Tom McCabe, interim director of environment, transport and development, said: “The potential to have solar panels on the Coltishall site has been the subject of public discussion for some time and is a hugely exciting prospect.

“Producing ‘green’ electricity would generate much needed recurring income for the county council for 25 years at a time when grants from central government are being cut.

“As the site is not in open countryside we very much hope it will also be generally acceptable to members of the public and to the relevant planning authority when the time comes.”

The controlling Labour/Liberal Democrat cabinet at County Hall will decide on Monday, May 12, whether to increase the scale of the solar farm originally envisaged in the council’s development vision for the Coltishall site.

That vision also includes new homes, commercially rented buildings, county farm tenancies and a heritage trail. Lafarge Tarmac has also applied to dig up the ends of the runway to create aggregate - a proposal which has sparked controversy in nearby villages and an objection from English Heritage.

The area available for farm tenancies would be “restricted” if the solar farm proposal goes ahead.

The county council was quick to stress that much of the land in question lies within North Norfolk District Council, so councillors for that authority, rather than at County Hall, will determine any planning application.

While the developer would make the money from the sale of power to the National Grid, the county council would receive the rent for the land.

In December, the go-ahead was given to Good Energy to install a solar farm on about 91 hectares of land at the former RAF Raynham site, near Fakenham.
• What do you think of the former RAF Coltishall site being used for a solar farm? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

35 comments

  • Time for a few sums. 1) 60 MW of capacity would produce about 525GWh pa, if running at 100% capacity. 2) However, according to DECC statistics, solar, on average through the year, only produces at about 8% of capacity, so this gives an annual figure of 42GWh pa. 3) The total electricity produced last year in the UK was 364TWh. Based on population numbers, Norfolk’s share of this was 1.4%, or 5.1TWh. 4) Therefore, the power supplied by the “largest solar farm in England” would supply just 0.8% of Norfolk’s needs, or 42GWh out of 5100GWh. But it gets worse!!! According to DECC data, in Q1 (between January and March), solar is so ineffective that it produces at a virtually insignificant 0.9% of capacity. And none of this is available in early mornings and evenings when power demand is at its peak. During these three months, Norfolk will have to source 99.9% of its electricity from other sources.

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    saveenergy

    Thursday, May 8, 2014

  • George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “I’m assured that sheep can safely graze under the solar panels”. Well NOT according to farmers - Google farming forum. I would have thought that the growth of any grass in the shade of the panels would be severely inhibited; making it uneconomic, but you may need to use a couple of sheep for weed control, better than spraying which is what most solar farms do.

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    saveenergy

    Thursday, May 8, 2014

  • windless, your are in denial and Fukushima will bite us all in the proverbial, its dangerous and unsafe too many follow on problems. Your solution is wanting on so many points. In America the first trials for fracking related accidents and poisonings have shown what this rabid technology does to the geophysical structure, our water and health. You are foolish to think that this will bring energy prices down, whilst longterm alternatives do. look at the tide table, ha, look at the rising mean spring tides and you know what we have to apply, precaution. We need to marry sea defence work with tidal energy generation, not p... about with dangerous technologies and substances that can be stolen by terrorists, what foolish and expenmsive mistakes. BTW. price of a wash barrier with lock system and tidal energy generation, replacing two nuclear power stations is 3-4 billion. price of two, proven to be dangerous, PWR nuclear power stations is 18 billion, at a bargain. price of decontamination of such monstrosity after it has generated much money for shareholders is another 6-10 billion. price of storing and looking after the waste from our nuclear legacy?, we can't yet say because we're stuck with expensive operators who, despite openly favouring themselves, can't even draft their contracts properly. Three barriers would do the trick, the wash, Severn and Shoeburyness to Sheerness Thames tidal energy barrier. Hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them long term, no dangerous legacies and safety for a minimum of 100 years, suck on that carrot.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • By the by, I note that because a great deal of the land is under the remit of NNDC, it will be them rather than NCC who have to deal with various planning issues to smooth this all through. And who is the Leader of North Norfolk DC? Step forward Tory twin-hatter Tom FitzPatrick. Forgone conclusion then?

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    Fenscape

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • If Mike Jozefiak is about it may interest him to know, in view of his letter in todays EDP, that I was copied in on the original letter sent to the EDP by Joy Franklin. The published version was heavily edited when printed this is the original letter ... Alex Savory (EDP letters 28th April) may like to know that on 9th May 2012 I asked, via public questions, NCC's Environment, Transport & Development Overview & Scrutiny Panel if it was possible to incorporate the inclusion of grey water catchment systems and solar panels to be installed on all new builds as a statutory requirement to qualify for planning consent? The reply from Graham Plant, Cabinet Member Planning and Transportation, was "The inclusion of grey-water catchment systems and solar panels on all new builds would be welcome in principle by all planning authorities (where this would not cause adverse affects, such as in a Conservation Area), and supportive policies are included in Local Development FrameworksLocal Plans. However, it is not currently possible to require this through the planning system". I submitted this question due to predictions that water rationing, due to the draught we were suffering at that time, was imminent. Additionally at this time NCC were also constantly highlighting the need for power generation, however small, from the incinerator! In my view if every planned new home across Norfolk was fitted with solar panels and grey water catchments systems Norfolk really would be a trailblazer in sustainable development in the true meaning of the words. There would, of course, also be an economic boost of extra jobs both in manufacturing and fitting of the systems. Unfortunately our planning authority cannot see the pressing need to consider sustainable infrastructure presumably because it would inconvenience business partners and threaten the profitability of Anglian Water. ........

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    Canary Boy

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • Ingo, you spout, yet again, your usual Green nonsense Now, before putting fingers to keyboard again, go and look at TIDE TABLES you'll find them in your local library, or, online You'll find that tidal flow is more or less sinusoidal, far from constant, and that's only for one day. You'll find roughly monthly variations, "SPRINGS" High high water and low low water, and "NEAPS" low high water and high low water. Add these to the mix and you'll have a far from useable source of power. I have been involved in tidal turbine electrical connection, underwater, and you can be assured that, not withstanding the above, there are very few practical site anywhere in the UK, unless you live in Orkney! Fracking and Nuclear are the only practical solutions Green Energy =Idiocy, every time!!!

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    Windless

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • well said Honest John, as for windless continously bleeping on for dirty energy, regardless of what it could do to us and the environment, is totally removed from any idea of sustainable energy recovery. To say that tidal energy does not provide a 24 7 energy supply is untrue, sea currents don't stop at night and wind blows as it does, that we have sadly put so much energy into providing a subsidy for a windfarm partially benefitting Norways king, is ridiculous and shows that green energy has been cornered by people the subsidy should have excluded. Fracking is for bullies who can't make simpler and cleaner ideas. work.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • Norfolk Energy Futures is wholly owned by NCC with Mark Allen the Managing Director and set up late 2012 to build onshore wind turbines. Savage cuts made to essential services in the budget, onshore wind turbines increasingly unpopular but NEF still received £3.5m loan from NCC and will have £7.75m over 3 years. Keep taxpayers' money in officers' pockets chaps.

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    Honest John

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • And there we were just a year ago, being forced to leer over pictures of Ian Monson and pals as they puffed and pranced over their new purchase, banging on about things like 'heritage' and 'pride' as they dragged that wretched county flag up a pole to a solitary flashgun. Now we find out that they just wanted a massive field to stick solar panels all over it whilst digging up the runway to build a road that isn't going to happen and - would you believe it - not a Spitfire in sight! Thank goodness the taxpayer didn't have to foot the bill for yet another load of old rubbish. Oh... wait...... we did!!

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    Fenscape

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Mr T Wind turbines, 40 or 50, or indeed, 3000 don't work when its not windy. Solar panels don't work when its dark Green Energy = idiocy, every time!!!

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    Windless

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Sugar Beet Twice as many solar panels, as you suggest "why stop at half the site" produce exactly the same as half the number when dark. Having twice as many things which don't work at all means you have twice as many useless things as you started with!!

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    Windless

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Peter Watson Fracking, as you call it works. Solar, wind tidal, etc etc doesn't. Shale gas fracturing works 247365. NO RENEWABLE even gets close. Acres of solar panels have a combined output of ZERO in darkness, Shale gas generated electricity has no idea what darkness even means, works 247365, now, on reflection, which way would you like your electricity generated????

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    Windless

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • MaryJane "It would also benefit small commercial firms who instal these panels and give more employment." The North Walsham one was entirely sourced from Croatia, the people who installed it were Croatian, the entire profit from (yours and my utility bills carbon tax) goes to Croatia. Not a single local person or firm was in any way involved in this process, and there was NO local employment,,,,,,,,,,,,Understand???

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    Windless

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Lunatics running the asylum,,,,,,,,,,,again! Council people are generally there as there are no practical jobs they could do. Coltishall purchase start to "finish" is a near perfect example of this. Sell it to people with proper jobs who understand business, or, at least, just understand!!

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    Windless

    Monday, May 5, 2014

  • Phew Maryjane. Does that mean we don't have to eat breakfast first before looking at the paper lest we catch site of his scrawny chest? What a relief. Mind you he can dress himself up as the Archangel Gabriel. He isn't going to impress anyone after his miserable year of misrule.

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    alecto

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

  • It would also benefit small commercial firms who instal these panels and give more employment.

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    maryjane

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

  • Solar farms are becoming as devisive as wind farms and they are as hideous- a blot on the countryside. How many properties are council-owned in Norwich? Surely it is better to apply solar panels to the roofs of these homes plus council offices etc and then the taxpayer may be able to see the justification of this government incentive.

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    maryjane

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

  • If a much larger scheme is needed to justify the 22km power line, why not build an incinerator on the rest of the site? I'm sure Cory have some existing plans they could use, and the local district council voted in favour of incineration so there'd be no objections!

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    Norfolk and Good

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Anyone who bought the EDP today, will be delighted that Gnobbs has updated his portrait from 'B' movie star to 'you can trust this man'? -maybe - anyone would think that there was about to be a run for the Leadership!

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    maryjane

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • A mystery business plan followed by a secret mysterious developer who likes to exploit our tax subsidy before the Government puts an end to subsidising solar, next month. These panels should be installed on houses benefitting thousands, rather than benefitting NCC to pay off its self inflicted debts. Selling the land for just this purpose, in a rush, would look as if someone got handed a brown envelope to beat the subsidy deadline, would it not?

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • A Norfolk County Council "vision" with regard solar panels at RAF Coltishall. Forgive me for being somewhat wary of NCC visions. Some have been a bit short sighted! Incinerators seem to come into focus. The entrepreneurial gland of this establishment has once again got excited. 18000 homes will benefit..........................that would be every day then. Three hundred and sixty five days a year? Would that be 247, hardly, get's pretty dark here in the winter, in Norfolk, around 4:30 pm if memory serves me correctly. I also note that the RAF Raynham solar farm makes a contribution to the local community. Will that apply to Coltishall. Nothing like a "bung" to sweeten the pill. Gets the locals excited. What! What! I have also heard, now this is very confidential, no names, no pack drill, that these panels are subsidised. Yep! You and me, on our electricity bills help to fund this whole operation. Smoke and mirrors? Flawed or corrupt? Am I being a little too harsh?

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    Old Wussername

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • The former Tory administration, most of whom are still county councillors have cost the Norfolk taxpayers so much and they should be barred from the county, terrible people.

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    Old Long Balls

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Another lunatic idea, develop the biggest blot on the landscape in Norfolk, rather see 40 or 50 wind turbines.... and no doubt the there will be no complaints from the locals as there will be no need for lorries to go through the village with this scheme. Who ever dreamt this idea up?? The lunatics really have taken over the asylum.

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    Mr T

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • If there was ever a good reason to abolish Norfolk County Council due to their incompetence with taxpayers money then this fiasco along with the aborted incinerator is it. Someone, should be held to account for this travesty!

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    Bad Form

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Wasn't Iffy Jordon a major player in this? No wonder he has been quiet of late, another fine mess...............

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    John L Norton

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • I wonder if it is mere coincidence that the Leader of North Norfolk Distruct Council has been appointed Leader of the Conservative group who beyond reason purchased RAF Coltishall??? Perhaps as leader of NNDC Mr Fitzpatrick will be able to ensure pet conservative projects are steamrollered through his planning committee just as Murphy did.

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    Canary Boy

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Beats getting fracked.

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    Peter Watson

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Why stop at half the site?

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    Sugarbeet

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • So NCC paid £4m for the site, one of the intentions being to have a small solar farm, but they did not look into the costs involved to make it feasible? How many times are the heads that should have rolled over Contract A, and now Contract B going to be allowed to inflict their stupidity onto Norfolk’s taxpayers? 300 acres to power 18,000 homes and Nobbs and McCabe are excited! Do they really expect this to be generally acceptable to members of the public who have an ounce of sense. John Martin is spot on again, this is too big an issue to be rushed through by a Gnobb.

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    Honest John

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • This all smacks of yet further negligence on the part of NCC's officers. It was months ago that the proposal for a 50 acre solar wind farm was first floated. Why was it not realised at that stage that this would involve the laying of a 22km cable from Coltishall to Norwich, so rendering the project completely unfeasible in economic terms? What do we pay these people handsomely for unless it is expertise? But, as always, blame is never apportioned inside a local authority.

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    Nemesis

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • A major decision like this should not be taken by the Cabinet this month, when in four weeks time the Cabinet system of executive decision-making in County Hall will terminate. Surely, a decision like this should be left for the new Committee system to make. At least then it would be made by seventeen members rather than ten, and they will not have been appointed by the Leader.

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    John Martin

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Is this mystery developer a mystery to Bruce Giddy?

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    alecto

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • This is a joke right? It's an April fool that's just a little late.

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    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Presumably there will be huge cancellation costs if the project doesn`t get off the gound. £160M or £26n or any other figure you might like to dream up!

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    democrat

    Friday, May 2, 2014

  • Do they know what they are doing? This won't get off the ground, who in their right mind is going to spend £millions on a cable before a single watt of electric is even generated?

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    Old Long Balls

    Friday, May 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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