Cautious welcome for 160,000 panel solar farm at MoD Lyneham

Plans for 160,000 solar panels at MoD Lyneham, to supply electricity for the new £230million Defence College of Technical Training, were unveiled at a public exhibition in Bradenstoke

Neil Martyn, principle consultant, Sarah Phipps, assistant consultant, and Angus Martin, technical director, from Amec at Bradenstoke village hall yesterday. (PM1142) By Paul Morris

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Plans for 160,000 solar panels at MoD Lyneham, to supply electricity for the new £230million Defence College of Technical Training, were unveiled at a public exhibition in Bradenstoke.

And they received a cautious welcome from those who saw the display.

Demolition work has already started at the former RAF base and the new college is scheduled to open in early 2016 with around 2,000 students and staff.

The panels, to face south towards the middle of the site, would generate 40 megawatts each year, enough to power the college and around 10,000 extra homes.

They would be 2.5 metres high and would sit on a plot roughly 90 hectares, north of the site’s main runway which is not needed for defence training.

Information boards at the exhibition yesterday said the scheme was part of a wider strategy to install solar panels on government estates.

They said: “The local electricity network cannot meet the power requirements of the new defence college when operational without significant upgrade working being taken.

“The site can accommodate an array of sufficient size to make the cost of grid connection viable. The topography of the landscape and the established hedgerows and trees around the site mean that it is well screened.

“However there are some areas, particularly for Bradenstoke, where the array is visible for a limited number of view points, including a few residential properties and the play area of Holloway.”

Jenny Jardine, president of the local WI group, gave feedback to the MoD on plans for the training college as part of the Lyneham steering group and said the plans looked like a good idea.

She said: “I have been more than happy with what they have been doing with the changeover. We didn’t want RAF Lyneham to go, but this is the best outcome for our village.

“I think it’s been very well managed, I have been quietly impressed. The biggest thing is, are these panels going to last? But it says here they last 25 to 30 years, which is quite good.”

Parish councillor Lynn Thrussell also welcomed the plans.

She said: “We haven’t heard anybody complaining about it and normally we’re the first to hear.

“If they have to use the land for something it’s probably the best use, it could have been anything when you think about it. At least it’s going to be quiet there.”

Bradenstoke resident Pauline Aves said: “I think it’s a good idea, I’m all in favour of using up space that’s not going to be used for anything else.

"It’s not like having a wind farm, it’s going to be quite quiet.”

A planning application for the proposal will be submitted early this summer and if successful work to upgrade electricity grid connections at the site could start in autumn.

The solar panels, which are prefabricated, would take around six months to install. However this instalment could be phased over a period of time between 2015 to 2016.

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