Environmental campaigners from across the UK are trying to stop the construction of a solar park on the Kent marshlands in an attempt to protect rare wildlife that inhabits the area.

Cleve Hill Solar Park is located outside Graveney, near Kent, parts of which are designated as a Biodiversity Operational Area. The area is home to rare birds, such as the marsh harrier.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England Kent division marketing and office manager Vicky Ellis said: “We support renewable energy in the right place – such as on roofs, industrial and farm buildings. We don’t support trashing the countryside and losing productive farmland for the sake of chasing a profit.

“This is one of the most protected and fragile landscapes in Kent, of international importance, with some of the best and rarest biodiversity in Europe, and it will be impossible to mitigate the loss of tranquillity and unique habitat. It is quite simply the industrialisation of rural Kent, depriving future generations of the chance to enjoy this wonderful and unique landscape.”

Tim Valentine of the Swale Green Party agreed that his party is in favour of renewable energy at industrial scale, but it does not condone the proposals to cover a two and a half mile long stretch of rare wildlife habitat in solar panels.

Energy storage for PV

Counter Context associate director Emily Marshall, who handles PR for Cleve Hill Solar Park, told Power Technology: “Cleve Hill Solar Park is proposing to include battery storage technology in addition to the PV array in their Development Consent Order (DCO) application. Whilst the type and final number of batteries for the project is unknown, a range of scenarios will be presented in the application for the project.

“Battery storage technology will be part of the solution to help the grid shift from fossils fuels to renewable energy. By acting to smooth the supply of renewable energy to the grid, battery storage will play a key role in enabling an integrated low carbon energy supply.  Battery storage technology forms an intrinsic part of the proposal for the Cleve Hill Solar Park and is an exciting part of the future of renewable energy generation.

Marshall added that the technology is a key part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy and can be used in a number of ways to support renewable energy generation, such as time shifting output and balancing frequency response.

The developers, a collaboration between the UK’s Hive Energy and German firm Wirsol, say that the solar park could ‘provide enough affordable and clean electricity to power over 100,000 homes’, at a time where one quarter of the UK’s energy generating capacity is due to close and the UK needs renewable energy to reach its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80%.

At the size of around 600 football pitches, the £400m Cleve Hill Solar Park would incorporate 989,000 solar panels in total. The solar panels would be mounted on 12ft frames in a zig-zag formation, facing east and west instead of south – the traditional direction for solar panels in the UK.