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Solar farm planned for Itchen Valley Country Park
THOUSANDS of solar panels could be installed within the grounds of a Hampshire country park.
The £1.1m scheme at Lower Russell’s Farm field, off Allington Lane, would be funded by the council, with support from central Government.
Sited close to the entrance of the country park, the land being considered sits on the left hand side of the road as you enter the park.
The council says it would be visible from parts of Allington Lane and depending on the tree coverage at different times of the year sometimes visible on the road leading into the country park.
Panels would generate around 1,000 kWh of electricity per year – enough to power 260 homes - and would save 570 tonnes of carbon each year.
The solar farm is expected to remain in place for between 20 and 25 years.
Although the council has had 12 schemes for solar power in the borough since July 2011, this is the first time that the panels have been on the grounds rather than on a roof.
Jeb Farrah, energy manager at Eastleigh Borough Council, said the site is already surrounded by trees and there would be a further 20m gap inside the perimeter.
Proposals include a 5.5m gap between the 2.4m long and 2.5m high panels, wide enough to fit a small tractor through, and that the land in between will be wildflower meadows and possibly grazing.
“We think in terms of biodiversity it will be enhanced,” said Ms Farrah.
Ms Farrah said it would take 12 years for the scheme to pay back its cost through electricity production, but would earn more than £1m in the eight years after.
The feed-in tariff is a fund from central Government that subsidises eco-friendly projects and will help fund the project.
It is reviewed every three months and is falling so Ms Farrah said this was a good time to take advantage of it.
“We have got a wind turbine on site as a demonstrator, but they need to be a lot bigger to have the kind of generation needed and we’re just not windy enough yet.
“The generation from the solar panels works really well and attracts the feed-in tariff and financially it’s a very viable scheme at the moment.”
A council spokesman added: “The proposed site is not in an area used by the public and will not restrict public use. The funds generated by the scheme will help support the park in the future at a time of public sector funding cuts.”
The council is holding a series of exhibitions for the public to find out more and to gauge their views.
An exhibition is being held at Highwood Barn, Itchen Valley Country Park today, tomorrow and Friday, from 10am to midday and from 2pm to 4pm, and on Saturday from 10am to midday.
You can also comment online by logging on to eastleigh.gov.uk/solarfarm.
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