Early stage plans to develop what could be the largest council owned solar farm in Wales will be considered by Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Cabinet today (Wednesday 23rd June).
A report to the council’s Cabinet will seek £434,000 funding to progress feasibility and develop a full business case for a Caerphilly-based solar farm proposal. The Cwm Ifor Solar Farm is a proposal to develop a 20MW (mega-watt) solar farm to the north of Caerphilly town centre, which would have the potential to be the largest public authority owned solar farm in Wales.
The £12 million project would have a life span of approximately 35 years and it is estimated that 40 ‘green’ jobs could be created as a result during the lifetime of the scheme. The proposal would also see lifetime C02 savings of 55,300; approximately 1,580 per year, which is enough to power approximately 6,000 homes.
Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainability, Cllr Andrew Whitcombe said, “This ambitious proposal would align to our decarbonisation agenda and would see the potential for the development of a flagship solar farm development capable of producing 20MW annually. For context, as a council we currently purchase 28MW per year at a cost of just over £4 million so the expected investment rate of return on such a project is evident, as well as making a significant impact towards delivery of our decarbonisation objectives should the proposal be supported”.
The report also seeks permission to start consultation and engagement work with members of the community on the proposal, as well as enabling council officers to undertake a thorough options analysis in order for a full business case to be presented in 2022 for Cabinet consideration.
Cllr Eluned Stenner, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transformation added, “With any transformation proposal of this scale, thorough consultation and engagement with our communities from the outset will be key. Should Cabinet endorse these early stage plans next week, officers will be keen to engage in-depth with residents, schools, the business community and others on the solar farm proposal to enable us to make an informed and robust decision when presented with the final business case”.
There are also a range of potential community benefits that the project, if endorsed, could support. Part of the community engagement activity would include identifying the preferred options. A wide range of community benefit schemes have been used on other renewable projects across the country, such as biodiversity enhancements and greening measures, links to local groups supporting those experiencing fuel poverty, investment/repairs to the local community and home insultation and heating grant support.
Should the scheme progress, it would be classed as a ‘Development of National Significance’ and therefore Welsh Government would need to make the necessary planning decision rather than Caerphilly County Borough Council.