Plans for huge new solar farm on outskirts of Sunderland to generate enough electricity for 11,000 homes

Plans for a huge solar farm on the outskirts of Sunderland have been submitted to city development chiefs.

Stock image of photovoltaic solar cells.
Stock image of photovoltaic solar cells.

Sunderland City Council’s planning department has received an application to develop land at Usworth House Farm near the A194 (M) to the north east of Springwell.

The site comprises a number of agricultural fields and sits within the Green Belt near the urban edge of Gateshead.

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Proposals from applicant Boom Power Ltd aim to use the site for the generation of renewable energy by installing “ground mounted solar photovoltaics arrays” with associated infrastructure.

This includes a substation, tower connection, transformer stations, a switch room, site accesses, internal access tracks and security measures.

As most of the site lies within a wildlife corridor, landscaping and “biodiversity enhancements” are also proposed to reduce the ecological impacts of the development.

This includes new planting, hedgerow creation and additional nesting and refuge/overwintering habitat for wildlife, as well as the land between and beneath the solar panels being used for “seasonal sheep grazing”.

According to a design and access statement submitted to local authority officials, the solar farm would generate up to 27.3 megawatts and would make a “valuable contribution to the generation of electricity at a local level”.

The plans also aim to “contribute to Sunderland City Council’s progress in meeting its renewable energy target” and to “assist in meeting national targets for both energy supply and low carbon energy development”.

Applicants are seeking an ‘operational lifespan’ of 40 years for the solar farm, after which the development would be decommissioned and the site “reinstated back to the original state before construction”.

The design and access statement adds: “The solar farm would generate clean renewable energy for the equivalent of more than 11,000 homes a year.

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“The anticipated CO2 displacement is 12,500 tonnes per annum.

“The proposal would provide a clean, renewable and sustainable form of electricity and it would make a valuable contribution to the generation of electricity at a local level.

“The scheme would make a meaningful contribution to the council’s 2040 [city-wide] carbon-neutral target and it would also assist in meeting national targets.

“In addition, the proposal would make a valuable contribution to offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and help tackle climate change”.

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The design and access statement also argues that the appearance of the solar farm, together with its rural location, would not have an “unacceptable adverse effect on the visual or amenity value of the local or the widercountryside”.

A decision on the planning application will be made once a period of council consultation has concluded.

Information published on Sunderland City Council’s website indicates a decision is expected before April 19, 2023.

For more information on the planning application or to track its progress, visit the council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/02803/FU4