LETTER: Solar farm would blight Chailey

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I write regarding the current application before Lewes Planning, for proposed Solar installation at Tomkins Farm, Cinder Hill, Chailey, for which public consultation ends 21st May.

Whilst I have always been vaguely in favour of the principle of free energy from wind and sun, I have until recently, never had any reason for a reality check, until I went to the West Country several months ago. Along the A30 to Penzance there are sections of what was a green and pleasant land, now covered with what I first took to be plastic sheeting for forcing early crops. Looking closer, these all turned out to be solar farms. Only they are not farms any more – they might just as well be huge grey factory roofs – and no-one would permit those to be planted in the Green Belt, were it not for the solar ‘fad’. It’s significant that the MP for that area is Conservative, Dr Sarah Wollaston, who, despite the Government being nominally pro-solar, is vehemently ‘anti’ herself and was re-elected with an increased majority.

Cornwall looks a mess, and we don’t want that for Sussex, just to generate six months worth of jobs. Look at Cornwall and learn from their mistakes.

When I came back, I asked around a couple of friends with some background in energy – one an investor and one previously from corporate energy insurance. Both were firmly of the opinion that solar is a politically correct Government subsidised, marginally effective, stopgap of ‘The King has got no clothes’ variety. Everyone is saluting it to appear to be ‘on-message’, but in reality, few believe. Solar has only flourished because of a rush to investment because of the subsidies and tax breaks. Now, I’m told, it is very much an ‘also-ran’ in terms of cost effectiveness and carbon footprint, when the full development, build, and installation costs are taken into account.

The answer to future energy demand is nuclear fusion technology, (Helium fused with hydrogen), which is now close to operation in France, and that will become our longer term solution here, as well.

Professor Brian Cox recently put out an interesting programme on energy and interviewed an American energy specialist and some data from that programme can be paraphrased as follows:

On average we will each consume 5kw of power by year 2025.

With a global population of 6bn, that comes to 30 terrawatts (a terrawatt is a Million Million watts)

If we wanted to move to green technology, and provide all that power without using fossil fuels, or nuclear, we would need: 1x new 3mw wind turbine installed every three minutes, or Olympic swimming pools full of biomass, dug every 3 seconds, or 250 sq metres of current solar panels installed per second over that 10 year period.

I leave it to you to do the sums and work out the total solar acreage required to do the job for GB’s part of that demand, but I suspect it is bigger than panelling the entire South East.

Other interesting facts include: Britain already has more solar energy installations than France Spain and Italy added together, Britain has more solar energy installations than USA, amazingly enough.

And why is this?

You need look no further than the subsidies, tax-breaks and profits to be made under the present GB schemes.That’s why and that’s why solar schemes should now be regarded with hefty suspicion. Interestingly, the National Trust – a nominally ‘Green’ body if anything is, is already abandoning solar schemes it had proposed, on the basis of lack of return and viability.

The future is nuclear fusion and the future is already on our doorstep, a short hop across the English Channel. This installation at Tomkins Farm would blight Chailey for 25 years, in return for the mostly intangible short term benefits suggested by the developers, so I would call on the Planners to reject it.

If you agree and wish to have your views heard, visit the Lewes Planning website, type in Tomkins Farm and add your thoughts to ‘Public Comments’, before the 21st May Deadline expires.

Act now, before more of the Green Belt disappears under glass.

Iain Crump

Cinder Hill