Published: 15:55, 24 March 2021
| Updated: 15:57, 24 March 2021
A bid to build Herne Bay’s second solar farm has been given the go-ahead – prompting claims the town’s abundance of green energy could spark a rush of jobs.
Global energy firm Vattenfall first unveiled plans to erect hundreds of panels, set to power as many as 5,000 homes a year, south of the A299 Thanet Way in August.
With Canterbury City Council’s decision to green light the scheme earlier this month, it will become the latest source of renewable energy in the coastal town.
Greenhill councillor Dan Watkins says this could trigger a wave of new businesses and jobs in the area as he believes firms keen to cut their carbon levels will now be drawn to the Bay.
“Because we’re getting a reputation for renewable energy in Herne Bay – we must be the cleanest, greenest town in Kent now – there’s a lot that can follow on from this,” the Tory said.
“There’s a lot of companies looking to relocate their offices and factories to towns where they can get a carbon-free source of energy.
“It can be a real source of investment in the town, and if a manufacturing plant or factory is built, you’re talking about a much higher numbers of jobs.
“It has to happen. Manufacturing industries are going to have to locate themselves near sources of renewable energy and the Government’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions isn’t far away now .”
The town already has hundreds of panels in Owl’s Hatch Road, which form one of Britain’s largest solar farms, producing enough energy to power 14,000 homes
Forty-five turbines are also located off the coast at the Kentish Flats Wind Farm. The development, which is also run by Vattenfall, creates enough electricity for 62,000 households a year.
And last year, a bid to construct a hydrogen plant creating fuel for buses on a former BMX track in Westbrook Lane was granted by councillors.
“Nowhere else has a hydrogen factory – this is the first one in the country,” Cllr Watkins added.
“We’ll soon have a huge amount of solar and wind energy, so we have a natural lead over other towns because we’ve already got many of these assets built.”
The new solar farm, called Solar@Kentish Flats, will cover a 66-acre parcel of farmland off the main road.
According to council papers, the project was supported by locals who argued it will “strengthen Herne Bay’s position as the leading town for renewable energy investment in Kent”.
In documents outlining their decision, officers from the local authority noted: “There would be jobs created as a result of the proposal.
“Given the size of the development and the renewable energy contribution it would make, the benefits associated with the installation of the proposed solar farm are considered to be of significant weight.”
The solar farm will share the grid connection and onshore infrastructure already used by the turbines.
The panels will remain at the site for 30 years, after which the land will be return to arable use if needed.
Vattenfall says this would mean the construction process, which will take four months and see 50 people working on the site, would take less time and minimise disruption.
It also stresses that the electricity it creates will be channelled into the local grid.
Vattenfall’s Chris Angell said: “Kent is playing a huge part in helping the UK transition to net zero.
“Our solar farm at Herne Bay can help to achieve this goal, along with our existing offshore wind farms at Kentish Flats and Thanet.
“We are looking to expand our pipeline of solar projects and are keen to work in partnership with other organisations to enable us to reach of goal of becoming fossil-fuel free in a generation.”