The proposed ‘wildlife centric’ JBM developed solar farm just south of Newent would help to tackle both the cost-of-living crisis and climate crisis by generating affordable renewable energy for around 21,700 homes, whilst enabling the existing pastoral sheep farm to continue to operate.
The plans are currently being considered by Forest of Dean District Council and, if approved, would save over 1.2 million tonnes of carbon compared to fossil fuel generation (equivalent to planting over 19.8 million trees).
With high electricity and gas prices creating a cost-of-living crisis, and solar energy representing one of the cheapest forms of generation (up to 9x cheaper than gas and over 2x cheaper than nuclear), the Laynes Wood Solar Farm, would play a part in bringing the costs of energy down.
The designs for the Laynes Wood Solar Farm, developed by wildlife conservationist and trained ecologist Robin Johnson, “seek to place a special focus on improving local biodiversity and opportunities for wildlife.” Robin is also the project manager for the scheme, representing JBM Solar.
The farm will support a diverse range of habitats and species once up and running. There will be a considerable 80 acres of new dedicated wildflower and wetland meadow across the site. This would provide vital butterfly and bee habitats (including a 5-acre block planted with Newent daffodils), both of which are under threat in the UK due to loss of habitat and pressures from pesticide use, and over 2.4km of native hedgerows and tree planting, further improving local interconnectivity of habitats.
Solar farms, when done right, represent a fantastic opportunity to create vast new, preserved habitats, and a result of this wildlife centric design means a considerable 89% gain to local biodiversity will be achieved (significantly above the 10% codified by UK legislation). Wildlife conservation is my passion, and I’m delighted with what we’ve been able to achieve with this site.
The wide 5m spacing between the rows of panels will allow high-quality grass to grow around the site, even under the panels. Sheep grazing will also be used to manage the land, allowing the site to continue producing food for the UK market.
Throughout development, the site will keep its greenfield status and avoid using any prime farmland. Additionally, it is expected to generate over £5m in local business rates, providing direct funding to local council services and projects in the area.
Local projects, such as the restoration and improvement of a local church and village hall restoration and rooftop solar for schools in the area, will also receive funding from the project.