Who is Low Carbon?
Low Carbon is a leading, privately-owned UK investment and asset management company specialising in renewable energy. We were founded with the aim of having a lasting and positive impact on climate change. In practice, this means responsible and innovative investments into large-scale renewable energy projects, a commitment to protecting the earth’s natural resources, and dedication to creating a low-carbon future for all.
Low Carbon has facilitated the deployment of more than £600 million in capital into renewable energy infrastructure with more than 1GW already developed.
Our proprietary renewable energy pipeline currently stands at more than 5GW, ideally positioning us to capitalise on investment opportunities as the need for green power and energy security increases. These investments are generating sufficient clean energy to power more than 427,000 homes*, avoiding more than 750,000 tonnes of CO2* each year.
Investing across the full life cycle from concept, through to development, construction and operation, Low Carbon has been active in large-scale solar energy since forming in 2011, and we are currently one of the largest asset managers of solar parks in Britain.www.lowcarbon.com
* Low Carbon internal calculations using OFGEM Typical Domestic Consumption Values and BEIS Carbon Conversion Factors
Why is Gate Burton Energy Park needed?
The transition to a low carbon energy system is necessary to avoid the effects of climate change. The UK’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was enshrined by law in June 2019 – the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. However as the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual report in June 2021 made clear, while the climate promises UK Government’s has made deserve credit, it has been slow to follow through with delivery and our journey to net zero is not yet half completed.
This is a decisive decade for tackling climate emergency. More renewable energy is needed to fast-track the transition away from fossil fuel electricity generation, with onshore and offshore wind and solar providing some of the key building blocks of the future generation mix.
With an anticipated generation capacity of 500megawatt (MW) Gate Burton Energy Park would make a significant contribution towards achieving net zero; providing utility-scale clean energy to National Grid's electricity transmission system to power more than 160,000 homes and avoid more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
Why has Low Carbon chosen this location at Gate Burton?
We consider a range of factors when evaluating land available to deliver a utility-scale clean energy scheme, including planning and environmental factors including existing use and quality of land, and well as any designations and constraints. However one of the factors ultimately informing site choice when looking at potential locations for new utility-scale solar development is available capacity on the local grid.
In the instance of Gate Burton Energy Park, the decommissioning of Cottam and West Burton coal-fired power stations means there is capacity available on the local grid network to accommodate new energy developments connecting in. By utilising existing electricity infrastructure rather than build new this also means we can reduce the potential impacts of the solar energy park.
What is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)?
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects otherwise known as NSIPs are large scale projects over a certain size which means they are considered by the Government to be nationally important. Permission to build them therefore needs to be determined at a national level – namely by the responsible Government Minister (‘Secretary of State’).
Instead of applying to a local planning authority for planning permission, when seeking consent for an NSIP the developer needs to apply to the Planning Inspectorate a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the final scheme. The process for applying for a DCO is set out in the Planning Act 2008.
The anticipated generation capacity of Gate Burton Energy Park is 500MW, more than the 50MW threshold set out in the Planning Act 2008 which means it is regarded as an NSIP.
For projects with an installed capacity of 50MW or less, a developer is required to apply for planning permission for the relevel local planning authority (LPA) under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
In the case of energy related projects the Planning Inspectorate acts on behalf of the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It will carry out an examination of the application for development consent and then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether or not to grant consent. The Secretary of State for BEIS will then make the final decision on whether to grant consent for the scheme.
You can find out more about the process of applying for a DCO on the National Infrastructure Planning website HERE
What is the timescale you are working on to deliver Gate Burton Energy Park?
We anticipate that the development process through DCO submission and examination will take between two to three years. We intend to submit our application for development consent to the Planning Inspectorate in late 2022 / early 2023. Subject to consent being granted, construction would start no sooner than early 2025.
You can find a timeline for the project on our website HERE
What will be included in the solar energy park?
Gate Burton Energy Park would comprise the installation of solar photovoltaic panels (PV) and an on-site energy storage facility.
The on-site storage facilities would provide an important balancing service for the national grid whereby electricity generated by the panels can be stored on site at times when grid-demand is low, then exported at times of higher demand.
Our plans for the project will also include any necessary and appropriate environmental mitigation and enhancement measures to ensure the scheme treads as lightly as possible on the local area.
The principle components of the energy park would include:
- Ground mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels converting sunlight into electricity
- PV module mounting structures
- Supporting infrastructure – inverters, transformers and switchgear - converting the direct current to alternating current and stepping up the voltage so it can be exported to the national grid
- Onsite cables connecting the solar PV modules and energy storage system to invertors which, in turn, connect to the transformers. Higher voltage cables will then be required between transformers and the switchgear and from the switchgear to the offsite electrical infrastructure
- An energy storage system so electricity generated by the solar PV panels can be stored on site and released to the national grid when it is needed most.
- On-site substation to export electricity from the energy park to the national grid.
- Security fencing enclosing the operational areas of the site in the form of 'deer fence' or other mesh fencing, along with pole mounted internal facing closed circuit television (CCTV) deployed around the perimeter of the operational site
- Accesses to the site during construction and for routine maintenance when the energy park is operational
- New planting around the site perimeter and within the solar PV area to enhance biodiversity and improve the landscape
- During construction one or more temporary construction compounds will be required, as well as temporary roadways, to enable access to all the land within the site boundary
Solar PV and energy storage technologies are rapidly evolving. The parameters of the application we submit for development consent will therefore maintain flexibility to allow us to use the latest technology available at the time of construction.
In addition, an electrical connection will also form part of the design so that the Energy Park can be connected into the existing national electricity transmission system at National Grid’s Cottom substation in.
Where will the Energy Park connect to the national grid?
We have secured a connection agreement with National Grid for the electricity generated by Gate Burton Energy Park to be exported into the national electricity transmission system via its existing Cottam substation in Nottinghamshire.
Will local communities be able to have their say on your proposals?
Yes. Public consultation forms an important part of the pre-application process for NSIPs. Early and ongoing engagement will serve to inform and influence our development of the proposals for Gate Burton Energy Park. Local councils, stakeholders and residents all have an important role to play.
The development of our proposals for Gate Burton Energy Park will be an iterative process and we welcome views at any time. However, prior to submitting a DCO application we will hold two stages of consultation inviting people to express their views and provide feedback on our proposals.
We held our first stage of consultation earlier this year (Jan-Feb 2022). This non-statutory stage of consultation was intended to introduce Low Carbon and the overall project and share details of our early-stage proposals. Giving people the opportunity to share their views on our emerging proposals and tell us about any issues they would like us to consider as we progress the design for the project, the consultation also invited suggestions for local projects and initiatives we could support or deliver to benefit those communities closet to the project.
Feedback to this consultation is now being used to refine the design of the scheme so that it is sensitive to and respects the concerns of local communities.
We will carry out a second statutory stage of consultation later this year when we will share our detailed proposals for soler energy park and its connection into the national grid – including environmental information and how we have responded to feedback submitted to the first stage of consultation.
If you’d like to register your details with us HERE, we’ll let you know directly as soon as more information about the second stage of consultation becomes available. In the meantime please do get in touch with us if you have any questions by calling 0800 860 6259 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long will Gate Burton Energy Park be in operation?
The design life of Gate Burton Energy Park is expected to be around 60 years. We will review the condition of the equipment throughout the lifetime of the project and at the end of its intended design life decide whether it remains in a viable condition to continue operation after that time. Any extension of the life of Gate Burton Energy Park beyond the 60 years would be dependent on new negotiations with landowners and new planning consent.
Will there be noise and visual impacts from Gate Burton Energy Park?
As part of our work to develop our proposals for the solar energy park , we are carrying out a range of surveys to ensure the levels of noise produced by the equipment onsite is within an acceptable range and a full noise impact assessment will be included as part of our application for development consent.
Similarly, studies are ongoing to minimise the visual impact of scheme, with screening and planting design being incorporated into the final design to reduce visual impact as well as provide environmental enhancement areas and buffer zones.
How long would it take to build Gate Burton Energy Park subject to the scheme being granted consent?
Subject to achieving consent, it is anticipated the project, including the grid connection, would take between two to three years to build. Based on our current programme, in the event of being granted consent the earliest construction would start is early 2025 with the scheme then becoming operational early 2027.
Will there be public access through Gate Burton Energy Park?
There are currently no public rights of way across the land the site comprises. However, in their feedback to our Stage One Consultation a number of people responded to our invite for ideas of project and schemes we could support to benefit communities closest to the project with suggestions that the scheme design incorporates accesses across the site for walking and horse-riding, and even the possibility of a running loop.
As we continue to shape our detailed proposals for the solar energy park further to this first stage of consultation having place we are looking at how, subject to health and safety compliance and relevant landowner permissions, these suggestions can be incorporated as we continue to refine the scheme design.
How will Gate Burton Energy Park affect local ecology and wildlife?
Low Carbon is committed to enhancing the existing biodiversity within the boundary of the land available for the project. We are required to demonstrate a biodiversity net gain of 10 per cent as a minimum on the site. Surveys are still being undertaken by ecologists to determine the native species and habitats onsite. Independent evidence of biodiversity net gains on solar farms, using metrics provided by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, shows that solar farm biodiversity net gain can range from 20% to over 100%, see HERE.
Measures could include providing new habitats, connecting and enhancing existing habitats, new planting of hedgerows and woodland, seeding of wildflower and new grassland and the introduction of grazing.
How much of the land comprising the site on which Gate Burton Energy Park is proposed as being built will be taken out of productive agricultural use if the scheme goes ahead?
There is always a balance to be found when new development comes forward, with many factors and impacts to consider. Due to its proposed location, Gate Burton Energy Park will utilise land that could be used for food production. However, the land take involved is minimal in the context of food production across Lincolnshire and allows clean energy to be generated at greater scale and efficiency than rooftop alternatives.
Solar farms provide valuable income for farmers, they can still be used for grazing, and they support UK farmers to continue food production on other parts of their land. The independent National Food Strategy Review shows that solar farms do not in any way present a risk to the UK’s food security.
Does the UK risk being covered with solar farms everywhere?
In the UK, new solar farms occupy roughly four acres of land per MW of installed capacity. All solar farms in the UK currently account for 0.08% of total land use.
To meet the government’s net zero target, the Climate Change Committee estimates that we will need between 75-90GW of solar by 2050. Analysis indicates this would mean solar farms would at most account for approximately 0.4-0.6% of UK land – less than the amount currently used for golf courses.