Renewable Energy – It’s Powering Up! Planning News, Environment, Renewables 08/04/2021 by Gilly
It’s no secret that I have a passion for renewable energy and climate change science – I pride myself on being able to identify the make, model and generating capacity of any wind turbine I drive past… a bit nerdy, but it gives an idea of how invested I am in renewables!
After a five-year lull in commercial wind and solar generation in Cornwall, renewable energy is back on the agenda in a big way, thanks to the Climate Emergency DPD. Here at Enhance we’re definitely looking forward to getting involved with some exciting renewable energy projects in the near future.
Cornwall Council has set an ambitious target for 100% of Cornwall’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030. Our current level is 37%. This means a lot more renewables between now and 2030, ranging from domestic generation to large commercial solar farms and wind farms. This doesn’t mean 63% more renewable energy developments, as technology is rapidly improving to generate a greater yield with less equipment, but we can be certain that we will see an increase in the number of renewable energy proposals over the next 9 years.
Policies 14 and 15 of the Cornwall Local Plan currently provide the starting point for renewable energy developments in Cornwall, but offer no specific guidance and provide little certainty for renewable energy developers. The DPD would replace these policies, and offer a greater degree of clarity on how Cornwall Council will assess renewable energy development in the future.
The most significant change in the DPD is the return of wind energy. This remains the most efficient source of renewable energy, particularly in Cornwall when a still day is a rarity. Wind can generate electricity round-the-clock. Sun, on the other hand, is fickle, time constrained, and requires a far greater land take to achieve the same generating potential. It makes sense then to encourage wind energy developments, in the right places, as these will be the largest contributor to achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
Policy RE1 – Renewable and Low Carbon Energy sets out a “broad suitable area” for wind development in Cornwall, where development would be supported providing it complies with other policies in the Development Plan. Wind energy proposals will need to demonstrate that, following consultation, the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed, as well as avoiding shadow flicker, noise, overbearing and overshadowing impacts on nearby properties.
Solar energy will play an important part in achieving a carbon neutral Cornwall, and will be encouraged on previously developed land or where they avoid best and most versatile agricultural land. If sited on agricultural land, solar developments will need to allow for the continuation of agricultural activity. All developments will need to provide a 10% biodiversity net gain.
Policy RE1 of the draft DPD also introduces policy guidance on other forms of renewable energy generation, which the Local Plan does not currently address. These include hydroelectricity schemes, geothermal and offshore renewables, as well as energy storage facilities. Cornwall’s unique geology and coastal location provide a wealth of untapped energy potential, and it is well placed to pioneer new renewable technologies.
Policy RE2 marks a further step in the right direction, and relates to safeguarding the strategic renewable energy sites that are identified in the broad suitable area map. This policy sets out that planning permission for proposals that are not renewable energy installations will only be granted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal would:
1) Not introduce adverse impacts within close proximity or interfere with the operation of any installed or planned renewable energy installation and enabling infrastructure; or
2) is a temporary use that will be re-located or removed prior to the renewable energy proposal commencing.
This proactive approach is a far cry from the current policy position, which seeks to protect only existing renewable energy sites from harmful development. As a result of the new policy, potential renewable energy sites will be protected from sterilisation by incompatible land uses – renewables are no longer an afterthought, they’re at the forefront of future planning in Cornwall.
The DPD heralds an exciting, innovative time for renewable energy, which will be one of the largest contributors to a carbon neutral Cornwall over the coming years.