Major new £600,000 solar farm to be built in Soham to help power 9,000 homes

A major new large scale solar farm in Soham could help power 9,000 houses after £600,000 funding was

A major new large scale solar farm in Soham could help power 9,000 houses after £600,000 funding was given the green light. Picture: ARCHANT. - Credit: Archant

A major new “large scale” solar farm in Soham could help power 9,000 houses after £600,000 funding was given the green light.

Members of Cambridgeshire County Council’s commercial and investment committee agreed to progress with the first steps of a project to bring a solar farm to a site in Soham on January 18.

The plans are to build a 37MW solar farm covering 187 acres (76 hectares) on a segment of North Angle Farm.

Councillors unanimously resolved to agree the outline business case for the solar farm and to provide “in-principle support” for a budget of £600,000 to fund the development costs of an Investment Grade Proposal (IGP).

They also agreed to approve work on the first phase of the IGP.

The site is located southwest of Soham.

A report which went before the committee said the site would be “suitable for the development of a large-scale solar farm”.

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According to the report: “It is estimated that the 76 hectare site could generate nearly the same amount of electricity as used by 9,000 households annually and would prevent the emission of more than 230,000 tonnes of CO2 over the project’s lifetime through offsetting fossil fuel electricity generation.”

The report states that there is an existing solar farm at Triangle Farm in Soham, that in its first year of operation over-performed estimated generation by five per cent raising an additional £50,000 over projections.

The team behind this project will also play a part in the North Angle Farm build.

Another 72 hectare solar farm at Burwell secured planning permission in April 2018 from East Cambridgeshire. They are still in preconstruction.

Matthew Rathbone, of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “The cost of solar panels has reduced. With a project of this scale, there will always be risks. Some of those are more general.”

Mr Rathbone said Brexit could have an impact on the cost of the project. He said solar panels are sourced from overseas so it is “not impossible” that costs will change.

Soham councillor Bill Hunt said he was not committing to a side and would be keeping an open mind towards the project.

Cllr Hunt said: “This land is mainly grade 3 of low agricultural value. I assume fair and proper conversations have been had with land owner and site will produce power for 9,000 homes.”

Cllr Ian Bates noted that the ground conditions are “quite similar” to previous solar farm projects the council has been involved with. He said income from the scheme will go to support frontline services.

“I think historically we’ve had very successful projects,” said Cllr Bates.

Cllr David Jenkins said it is “an exceedingly good project”, but cautioned against using the success of previous projects to predict the success of new ones.