Solar Farm Project
Published: 3rd August 2021
Last Updated: 8th June 2022
This webpage will be updated regularly with the latest project information.
The Airport has appointed the approved contractor, Vital Energi, to undertake Phase 1 of the solar farm development. Phase 1 of the development will provide 3MW of power and construction began on the site in July 2022. The scheme is anticipated to be in operation early March 2023.
The need for the scheme
As a responsible organisation, we recognise the need to reduce our carbon outputs. We are committed to becoming a Net Zero carbon emissions site by 2035. In order to achieve this we have developed a Net Zero Carbon 2035 strategy that looks at ways Your Airport can become more sustainable through reducing and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Our heating and electricity use forms a significant part of our carbon emissions. While we have taken many steps over the years to retrofit more environmentally friendly solutions, we now need to explore onsite renewable energy opportunities.
We have undertaken a series of studies in recent years, which have resulted in solar energy being considered the most suitable for our business. The proposed scheme would see the installation of a solar farm on Airport land to supply 100% of the Airport’s electricity requirements.
The map below shows the location of the proposed Solar Farm in relation to the Airport site.
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The proposed scheme includes a solar farm (up to 16MW) and associated infrastructure which will be built in 4 phases, between 2022 and 2035, to support the Airport now and in the future. The site for the scheme is situated to the south of the eastern end of the Airport runway, adjacent to the Main Road, Dinnington / Brunton Lane and Coach Lane junction.
Solar panels will be arranged across the site in a grid pattern. Battery storage units will be located on the site to capture unused energy generated during daylight hours, allowing energy to be stored and used during evening or times when there is less sunlight. Battery storage will be delivered within Phase2 of the development.
Areas of tree planting have been planted to the east and south of the site to screen the view of the solar farm from the surrounding roads and public rights of way. Large areas of woodland planting has been undertaken to the south of the solar farm site as a separate parallel project.
The proposed solar farm will be a time limited medium-term use of the site. At the end of its operational life the site will be decommissioned, and all equipment will be removed.
A temporary compound and access track has been installed for construction. Following completion of all phases of the solar farm, the temporary access track will be removed and the existing field access from Main Road Dinnington will be used to gain entry to the site.
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The proposed solar farm will support the Airport’s aspiration to reduce it’s scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions as set out in the Net Zero 2035 strategy. The improvements will:
• Support the UK Government policy to achieve Net Zero by 2050
• Contribute to the City of Newcastle’s Carbon Net Zero aspirations by 2030
• Seek to provide 100% of the Airport’s electricity requirements through sustainable means
• Support the economic growth objectives of the Airport and wider region
• Aim to have minimal impact upon the local environment in terms of noise and visual intrusion
• Seek to provide ecological enhancements to the site through landscape planting and other measures
The potential impacts of the scheme on existing communities and community assets are expected to be minimal. Once operational, the scheme is expected to have a wider beneficial effect on the area, in contributing to the city’s Net Zero Newcastle: 2030 action plan.
While construction impacts are proposed to be minor, we will continue to consult with our neighbours and seek to minimise disruption during this period.
The proposed scheme is considered to be temporary in planning terms, with an expected lifespan of around 25 years. The scheme will be built on agricultural land. We are, however, exploring complementary agricultural uses for the site alongside the solar farm.
The scheme lies on land within the Green Belt, adjacent to ecologically sensitive sites including a Site of Local Conservation Interest, a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) Impact Zone and a Wildlife Enhancement Corridor. There are also protected trees (TPOs) surrounding the site. These sensitivities are considered further below.
We need to balance the need to build the solar farm against its potential impact on the environment. Environmental issues are very important to us and our environmental specialists continue to work closely with our design team to assess and mitigate the effect of the scheme on the environment.
The solar farm is not expected to generate emissions and will not impact upon the air quality of the surrounding local area.
Alongside air quality, the noise impacts of the scheme have been considered in the design, construction and operation. The solar farm is not expected to detrimentally impact upon the noise environment of the surrounding local area.
We have assessed the potential effects of the scheme on designated ecological sites and protected habitats and species. Ecological features nearby that may be affected by the proposals include Sites of Local Conservation Interest, a SSSI Impact Zone and a Wildlife Enhancement Corridor.
Ecological surveys have been undertaken and we have sought to minimise any impact on habitats in designing the scheme.
Landscape planting, in the form of a wildflower meadow, is set to be planted in the first planting season after construction of Phase 1 of the solar farm. This will be planted underneath the solar panels. The planting will provide ecological enhancement to the wider area. During construction our ecologist has been on hand to manage and mitigate any interactions with protected species. As part of the planning application, the Airport will deliver habitats for skylarks, native birds, and bats.
While the solar farm is designed to be low level and unobtrusive, a key challenge has been to make sure that it fits within the landscape it forms part of. The site lies within the Green Belt and has a number of protected trees on and within its boundary. In designing the scheme, we have sought to avoid existing and protected trees and hedgerows.
The scheme is not adjacent to any residential areas and is not expected to impact upon them. The main visual impact of the scheme will be to those travelling along Main Road and local Public Rights Of Way. Tree planting has been undertaken along the boundary of the site to complement existing tree plantations in the area. This will help to screen the potential effects of the scheme on the character of the local landscape and on important viewpoints.
While the scheme is designed to have minimal impact on the land, we are seeking to avoid areas of known heritage or archaeological interest. The solar farm is not expected to impact upon nearby historic buildings, archaeological remains or other aspects of the historic landscape.
The solar farm has been designed to avoid impacts upon the safety of aircraft departing and landing at the Airport. The safety glass surfaced panels are designed to maximise daylight absorption and minimise glare. A full Glint and Glare Assessment has been undertaken for the scheme to ensure it does not impact upon aviation safety.
The solar farm is proposed to be constructed directly on to existing green fields. When it rains, water runs from the panels directly onto the fields below. Surface water run-off is not expected to affect the local watercourses or contribute to additional flooding.
The proposed temporary road will be constructed using permeable materials and is not therefore expected to result in any requirement for additional drainage.
During construction, a management plan has been in place to ensure that all construction impacts are managed and mitigated, preventing any detrimental impacts to the wider area.