BAE Systems to submit 13-acre solar farm plan

A site the size of almost nine football pitches could be turned into a huge solar farm at a major Lancashire business zone.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 17th June 2014, 12:00 pm
BAE Samlesbury
BAE Samlesbury

BAE Systems is set to submit plans to install 10,000 solar panels on part of a disused runway at its Samlesbury site, near Preston.

The project will involve more than 13 acres of panels on its land, expected to supply up to 25 per cent of the electricity demand for the aerospace giant.

BAE will submit the proposal to South Ribble Council this week to install the panels at its military aircraft manufacturing site.

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The panels will cover 13.30 acres – equivalent to about nine football pitches - and generate 2MW of peak electrical output.

The 2.5m high solar panels will be located on an area of the site which includes a portion of the old runway.

BAE chiefs said woodland on either side of the runway would provide natural screening from most locations in the area.

Solar power was considered to be the best option for Samlesbury, which spends millions of pounds a year on electricity and consumes the same amount of power needed to run 11,500 homes.

Bosses at the business say the plans come as part of its commitment to support the environment and to help cut costs.

Stuart Barker, estates manager at BAE Systems Samlesbury, said: “The company is committed to doing all it can to reduce the amount of energy we use and to minimise our impact on the environment.

“The installation of solar panels would have significant benefits for both the company and the environment.

“Over the lifetime, the panels would prevent the equivalent of 29,000 tonnes of CO2 being added to the atmosphere.”

The proposed installation would only generate power for BAE Systems’ operations, removing its reliance on the National Grid and freeing up capacity for any developments on the Lancashire Enterprise Zone.

A decision by South Ribble Borough Council is hoped for in September, and if approved, installation would commence shortly afterwards.

Coun Barrie Yates, who represents Samlesbury and Walton, welcomed the solar farm proposals.

He said: “I think the solar panels will blend in better than having wind turbines.

“So on that principle I would support the solar panels, but will be awaiting public consultation.

“Wind turbines spoil the countryside, they stick out like sore thumbs, and these will be a lot better and do the same job.”

Coun Yates, who is also a parish councillor, added: “I’ve spoken to the parish council about it.

“They weren’t concerned about it because it will be tucked away, and I think they agreed that wind turbines are unsightly.”

A screening opinion was lodged with South Ribble Council for an environmental impact assessment, and full plans are expected to be submitted this week.

A letter to the council from agents GVA said: “The proposed development seeks to promote renewable energy, which will be utilised by BAE on site to reduce their ongoing energy requirements, making the operation of the site more self-sufficient and less reliant on national energy infrastructure (thereby helping to address the long therm future of BAE’s operations energy security).

“Integral to the scheme is the reuse of brownfield land and impact on landscape and visual impact.”

BAE Systems’ Samlesbury site manufactures the aft fuselage and empennage for all versions of the new F-35 jet and major components for Typhoon jets.

BAE said they had engaged with South Ribble Council and Ribble Valley Council and the parish councils around the Samlesbury site, and had also highlighted the potential application to Samlesbury Hall.