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Photo: Regenerative farming with solar power in Tennessee, courtesy of Silicon Ranch via Cision.

Clean Power

UK Plots An Assault On Land-Based Solar

Just when the UK needs cheap, abundant solar power the most, the government has declared war on solar sited on farmland.

Leave it to the UK to come up with the dumbest idea of the century. With Europe and the British Isles slouching toward catastrophe this winter thanks to war criminal Vladimir Putin shutting off access to cheap natural gas, most countries are racing to install more renewable energy. But not Liz Truss, who has the dubious distinction of making Boris Johnson look like a Nobel laureate. Now that she is in a position to take a wrecking ball to what is left of the UK economy, she has turned her attention to slowing down land-based solar projects.

Ostensibly, the reason is to preserve the UK’s precious farmland. What could possibly be wrong with that? The Guardian has done a fine job of exposing the lie behind this plot. The new environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, says he is opposed to solar panels being placed on agricultural land, arguing that it impedes his programs for economic growth and the boosting of food production.

Sources tell The Guardian he has asked his staff to redefine “best and most versatile” land which is earmarked for farming to include the middling-to-low category 3b. Land is graded from 1 to 5, and currently BMV includes grades 1 to 3a. Planning guidance says that development on BMV land should be avoided, although planning authorities may take other considerations into account.

Currently, most solar farms are built on and planned for 3b land, so this move would scupper most new developments of the renewable energy source. Good move, Looney Liz. Perhaps your loyal subjects can burn those extra peas that are raised on that sub-prime farmland. How proud the English must be to know control of their country has passed from one lunatic to another. We expect America to embrace idolatry and ignorance, but we really thought people in the UK had more sense than to keep falling for this claptrap.

Extending BMV to grade 3b would ban solar from about 41% of the land area of England, or about 58% of agricultural land. Much of grade 4 and 5 land is in upland areas that are unsuitable for solar developments.

During her speech at the Conservative party conference last week, Looney Liz reeled off a list of “enemies,” including green campaigners, who make up what she characterized as the “anti-growth coalition.” During her campaign, she vowed to block solar farms on agricultural land.

The UK War On Solar

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the trade association Solar Energy UK, said, “The UK solar sector is alarmed by attempts to put major planning rules in the way of cheap, homegrown energy. Solar power is the answer to so many needs and policy demands: it will cut energy bills, deliver energy security, boost growth and help rural economies. Ranil Jayawardena’s opposition to solar farms must surely make him part of the anti-growth coalition.”

Dustin Benton, policy director at the think tank Green Alliance, said: “It would be odd to redefine ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land to include soils that aren’t of high quality, just to block solar farms. It sounds like a tactic that the ‘anti-growth coalition’ might employ. The UK desperately needs to expand renewables so we don’t have to pay the extortionate cost of gas. Solar is one of the fastest energy sources to be deployed, so we should move quickly to build more in light of the gas crisis.”

Andy Mayer, chief operation officer at the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, said: “The government cannot on the one hand declare war on ‘the anti-growth coalition’, while on the other enforcing a right to veto developments, or waste time and money with excessive regulation. Farmers and green entrepreneurs are itching to provide solutions to the false claim that energy and food security cannot coexist. The City of London is ready to fund them. Long term solutions to grid congestion and storage are possible. Market reform can provide a level playing field for competition. Communities can benefit through more personal rewards from permitted development.

“That is what a supply-side revolution to encourage growth while supporting a transition to a cleaner greener future looks like. Not rigid rules, plans, and targets that confuse, contradict and encourage opposition to change.”

Ed Miliband, shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, said: “If the government goes ahead with blocking solar energy, it will be yet more unilateral energy disarmament from a government that has a 12 year record of driving up bills by blocking clean power. The blame for this plan lies squarely with the prime minister who has repeatedly opposed solar energy, the cheapest, cleanest, quickest form of power–and it will be the British people who pay the price in higher bills, higher gas imports and energy insecurity.”

The Takeaway

solar panels agriculture agrivoltaics

More bad news for fossil energy: US Energy Department hatches plan to pepper US farms with crop-friendly solar panels.

The UK’s latest disaster at 10 Downing Street is yammering on about “anti-growth.” She appears to have not a single clue that the roof that is about to fall in on the country when electricity rates spike this winter, coupled with blackouts galore. She is unable to see that the greatest anti-growth measure of all was Brexit. Liz Truss’ idea of trickle down economics is to piss on people’s legs and tell them it’s raining.

Of course food production has to be a priority, but the land the government seeks to protect is best suited to the kinds of crops and animal husbandry that thrive when coupled with solar installations. This arrangement is called agrivoltaics and it is catching on all over the world, especially when farmers find out they can increase their income if they combine solar panels with agriculture.

Farmers are portrayed as being virulently opposed to changes, but that is simply not true. What they want is to be able to make a living from their farms, and anything that brings money in the door is usually welcome news in any farming community.

The UK has opted to put an ideologue in charge, someone who cares nothing about reality and is only interested in jamming her pet ideology down the throats of her constituents because she thinks she is smarter than everyone else and can ignore anyone who thinks differently. This latest policy puts the entire country at risk in order to score points in a stupid game of political chicken. Good luck with that, Liz.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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