Project status

  • Holding information
  • Active information
  • Closed for comments
  • Planning submitted
  • Planning decision
  • In construction

Welcome to
Birch Solar Farm

Low Carbon is proposing a new solar farm, to be known as Birch Solar Farm, located to the north of Hardy’s Green and west of Heckfordbridge. The project will generate approximately 49.9 megawatts (MW), producing enough clean renewable energy to cover the annual electrical consumption of over 16,500 homes each year.

  • Project Status

    Closed for comments

  • Site address

    Land north of Hardy's Green and west of Heckfordbridge.

Birch Solar Farm

Thank you for the feedback provided during our consultation, which has now closed. We are reviewing the information along with the technical studies to refine our indicative layout.

Following this process to will let you know of the next steps and once we have submitted a planning application.

Please contact us if you would like to speak to a member of the project team.

Timeline

  1. February 2022

    EIA Screening & Parish Consultation

    Completed 2022-04-05
  1. May to June 2022

    Community Consultation

    In Progress
  2. Early Summer 2022

    Planning application submission to Colchester Borough Council

  3. Winter 2022

    Colchester Borough Council will consider and determine the application

  4. Summer 2023

    Commencement of Construction (if planning permission is granted)

Additional Information

  • A Landscape Planning Pre-application was received from Colchester Borough Council, March 2022.
  • An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Request was submitted, February 2022. The Council has confirmed the project is to be screened EIA.
  • A wide range of environmental subjects will be taken into consideration including traffic impacts, landscape and visual impacts and ecology.
  • Currently working to submit a full planning application in early Summer, after we have had the opportunity to make any project refinements following the community consultation.
  1. Completed
    2022-04-05
  2. In Progress

Benefits

Across our UK-wide portfolio of renewable energy projects, we have championed biodiversity as a critical milestone on the journey towards a low-carbon future.

Across all our solar parks we work with landowners and developers to implement comprehensive land and biodiversity management programmes. Each aligns with the conditions and circumstances unique to its site. Yet while we are pledged to protecting existing flora and fauna, most solar farms benefit still more from the introduction of extensive new planting and husbandry measures.

As sites mature, ongoing development will realise an increasing diversity of habitats and species: from meadows, hedgerows, wildflowers and woodland to sheep, bees, birds, bats, reptiles and invertebrates.

  • Biodiversity

  • Sheep

  • Beehives

  • Public Rights of Way (PRoW)

  • Planting

Proposed Impact

The photos show existing views of the location and what Birch Solar Farm will look like following construction and screening planting.

The location of the viewpoints (VP) can be seen on the map. Viewpoint 2 (VP2) is taken from Hardy's Green, and viewpoint 3 (VP3) is taken from a footpath to the east of Bockingham Hall Farm.

Click on a stage of the project below to show proposed timelapse images of the site

  • Existing VP2
  • First day of completion VP2
  • After 10 years VP2
  • Viewpoint Location Map
  • Existing VP3
  • First day of completion VP3
  • After 10 years VP3

FAQs

Low Carbon is the developer of this project and we will use the information gathered at the end of the consultation period to advise on the development of the proposed solar farm.

Here is a selection of questions that have been asked relating to solar farm installations/builds

Why here?

Low Carbon has carefully identified this site as part of a detailed feasibility process to deliver a large-scale clean energy scheme. Many factors are considered by our specialists when evaluating appropriate sites for development. These include considering the available grid locally as well as various planning and environmental constraints.

Solar offers a low cost, safe and low carbon way of delivering clean power to meet this target as well as reduce the levels of carbon dioxide that are being emitted into the atmosphere by replacing electricity generation from fossil fuels.

The proposal includes battery storage which will allow energy to be stored on site at times when grid-demand is lower and exported at times of higher demand to ensure no energy is ‘lost’ and help balance the National Grid.

Are there any health risks associated with being in close proximity to solar panels and energy storage facilities?

Solar panel arrays do emit electric and magnetic fields (EMF) in the same extremely low frequency ranges as electrical appliances and wiring found in most houses and buildings.

The average daily background exposure to magnetic fields is estimated to be around one mG (milligauss – the unit used to measure magnetic field strength), but can vary considerably depending on a person’s exposure to EMF from household electrical devices and wiring.

The lowest exposure level that has been potentially associated with a health effect is three mG. Measurements at three commercial PV arrays in Massachusetts demonstrated that their contributions to off-site EMF exposures were low (less than 0.5 mG at the site boundary), which is consistent with the drop off of EMF strength based on distance from the source (2015, Clean Energy Results).

Will there be noise and visual impacts from Birch Solar Farm?

As part of our ongoing work to determine the design of the project, we are undertaking surveys to ensure the levels of noise produced by the equipment onsite is within an acceptable range. Low Carbon will produce a full noise impact assessment as part of our application for development consent.

Similarly, studies are ongoing to ensure the visual impact of the Solar Farm on the local landscape is minimised. This will include screening and the installation of other mitigation measures in the appropriate locations around the perimeter of the land available for the project.

Will Birch Solar Farm use land that could be used from growing crops for food production?

There is always a balance to be found when new development comes forward, with many factors and impacts to consider. Due to its proposed location, Birch Solar Farm will potentially utilise land that could be used for agricultural production. However, the land take involved is minimal in the context of food production across Colchester and allows clean energy to be generated at greater scale and efficiency than rooftop alternatives.

Solar farms can provide vital space for improving biodiversity, such as wildflowers and bees. Low Carbon encourages the grazing of sheep and the siting of beehives in its solar parks, meaning that the potential for dual use of the land for electricity development and agriculture will be explored during the development of this proposal.

Will the solar farm cause any glint and glare?

Solar panels are designed to absorb light and not to reflect it. They pose little risk of glint or glare. Testament to this fact is the installation of solar panels at Gatwick Airport, alongside major roads and beside sports car raceways such as the ‘Top Gear’ test track.