Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

Renewable and low carbon energy

12.9 This term describes energy supply from ‘renewable’ sources such as from the wind, the fall of water, the sun, and biomass; and ‘low carbon energy’ that can help to reduce CO2 emissions e.g. Combined Heat and Power, air/ground source heat pumps and energy-from-waste. National policy strongly supports renewable and low carbon energy, with the UK Renewable Energy Strategy (2009) setting a target of 15% of energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020 – a challenging target that will require a seven-fold increase from 2008 levels. The Government’s current ‘feed in tariff’ provides a financial incentive for renewable and low carbon electricity generation, e.g. solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines.

12.10 Policy EQ1 fully supports the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy, consistent with national policy. However, in some cases there may be unacceptable impacts that could preclude renewable and low carbon energy development, such as large wind turbines on bird flight paths in or around the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area (SPA)/Ramsar, and impact upon protected landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB),[1] or designated heritage assets. The Habitats Regulations Assessment for the Somerset Levels and Moors makes clear that wind farm developments are likely to be unacceptable within 800 metres of the internationally designated sites.

12.11 The following map highlights areas with wind speeds in South Somerset of at least 6.5 metres per second at 40m above ground level (usually considered the minimum economic wind speed) along with the key constraints: AONBs, SPA/Ramsar, SSSIs, and airfields. Applying these key constraints along with wind speeds identifies the potential for wind turbines in the district subject to more detailed site specific issues including practical access to sites, landowner willingness, political will, and economic distance to the nearest appropriate grid connection.

Figure 11: Wind speeds (metres per second) with key constraints[2]
Figure 11: Wind Speeds (metres per second) with key constraints

12.12 In terms of other potential renewable and low carbon energy resources in South Somerset, there is good potential to develop solar photovoltaic panels as the District has relatively high levels of sunshine duration compared to the rest of the UK, with around 1,500 sunshine hours per year. There are also numerous weirs and mills that generate electricity as part of the South Somerset Hydropower Group - albeit at a relatively small-scale - with further potential sites yet to be developed. Wood chip, wood pellet or logs can be used to generate heat in biomass boilers, stoves and combined heat and power systems, heating individual buildings or to power district heat systems. As wood is a bulky material, it is most viable to use a local supply. Farmers tend to use Grade 3 agricultural land (which covers most of South Somerset) for energy crops such as Miscanthus or willow, and there are also areas of unmanaged woodland and coppice that could yield wood fuel.

1. For example, a study has been produced to assess renewable energy potential in the Blackdown Hills AONB: ‘Renewable Energy in the Blackdown Hills AONB (2010)’ [back]
2. NB the scale of this map applies at A3 size [back]