A 48MW solar farm featuring composting toilets, hydrogen-powered CCTV and a car-sharing scheme for staff will be built on a large rural estate near Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The developers have pledged to only use energy from biodiesel generators and solar panels during the construction of the farm, which will consist of 175,000 panels covering about 205 acres of land on the privately-owned Southwick Estate. The plant will have a peak output of 48MW and will provide enough energy to power 11,000 homes.
The estate includes 17 farms, 164 homes and over 50 commercial properties.
"Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we're looking to roll out across all of our future sites," said Frans van den Heuvel, the CEO of Solarcentury, which will build the new site for Primrose Solar. "Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar's continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site."
Taking sustainability to another level, the project aims to show that, despite widespread beliefs, solar farms don’t need to have a negative impact on the countryside.
A full ecological survey will be carried out assessing the farmland where the solar panels will be sited. Wildflowers will be sown to provide food for species such as bees and butterflies and sheep will be grazed between the panels in autumn and winter.
Apart from a car-sharing scheme, the site will also feature a canteen so employees do not need to drive away for lunch.
"We're in this for the long-term. For the next 25 years, Primrose wants to be a good neighbour: supporting the local community and working with the landowner to demonstrate responsible stewardship of the land for the lifetime of the solar farm," said Giles Clark, chief executive of Primrose Solar.
The construction of the power plant will commence this month and the farm is expected to start generating electricity for the grid by the end of March 2015.
Despite the controversy around the impact on the countryside and debates surrounding renewable energy subsidies, solar energy has been voted the most popular renewable energy resource in a recent survey carried out by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.
While the industry argues it can be subsidy-free in a few years with a stable regime, the UK government has already decided to end payments to new large-scale standalone developments two years earlier than previously planned.
The solar industry has also drawn up a series of 'best practice' commitments for large-scale ground arrays – including minimising their visual impact, buying and employing locally where possible and focusing on non-agricultural or low-grade agricultural land.