Solar panels could soon be banned from most farmland

The government could soon ban solar panels from most of England’s farmland, despite the current energy crisis and solar power being a cheap form of energy.  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said solar power is becoming the ‘lowest-cost option for new electricity generation in the world’, but government ministers are said to oppose panels being built on agricultural land.  

It was reported by the Guardian that new Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena is set to bring in measures which would drastically reduce the amount of land available for panels.  

According to the newspaper, he is asking officials to redefine ‘best and most versatile’ land (BMV) so it includes the middling-to-low category 3b – the land solar panels are primarily built on.  

It’s said the minister believes solar panels restrict growth and food production, but data from Carbon Brief shows that solar power accounts for just 0.1% of land. In fact, golf courses take up more land, accounting for 1,256km2 compared to 230km2 of solar power.  

black solar panels on green grass field during daytime

Trade association Solar Energy UK has responded to the claims: ‘Britain’s solar industry completely opposes plans apparently being discussed within Government that would severely restrict the development of solar farms in England. 

‘The move is in response to false and baseless claim that solar farms threaten the UK’s food security. 

‘Solar farms defend global and UK food supply because they address climate change, which is the single biggest threat to UK food security, according to Jayawardena’s own department Defra.’  

The group also pointed out that solar farms help to keep farmer in business with a stable income during the current cost-of-living crisis, which they say was caused by the UK’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.  

Growth in the sector could result in solar power supplying 17% of the UK’s energy by 2035 and would support 60,000 jobs.  

The government previously had plans to increase solar power capacity by 38GW, as outlined in the energy security strategy, and Carbon Brief has shown this would result in just 0.3% of land cover.  

A recent survey by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has also found 87% of respondents support solar power, with just 1% opposing the technology.  

Solar Energy UK CEO Chris Hewett 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.’  

Photo by Raphael Cruz


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