Sites around the River Derwent through Derby, Carsington Water, Swadlincote and a vast area between Chesterfield and Alfreton are the prime locations for solar farms, a council report shows.
An extensive Derbyshire County Council report details the best places for energy production, including solar and wind farms.
It carried out the analysis in a bid to better understand what the county may need to provide to move away from fossil fuels and reduce its carbon footprint.
The study also gives councils and planners a better idea of where facilities could be placed, with a range of new policy recommendations advising on what could be best practice for clean Derbyshire energy production improvements.
It does lay out some broad potential constraints including the general principle that ground-mounted solar panels in the Peak District National Park, National Forest or other national or “internationally designated areas” are “not considered acceptable” – for larger sites.
It also recommends that high-value agricultural land is also unacceptable for solar farm use and plots near key infrastructure such as major roads, railways and airports are also off the table, due to the risk of “glint and glare”.
The report discloses that the areas with the most “headroom” – capacity for electricity generation – are Derby and its surrounding area; Chesterfield and spots near the town in North East Derbyshire; and a “notable” site near Chapel-en-le-Frith in the High Peak.
Looking closer at the detail, through maps drawn up by the study, solar farms larger than one megawatt in electricity production are said to be best placed around Swadlincote; the banks of the River Derwent from around Pride Park, Alvaston Park and up towards Elvaston; the entire hilly area encapsulating Carsington Water; an area between Shuttlewood and Clowne; and a mammoth stretch of land between Chesterfield and Alfreton.
The report says the area with the “greatest development potential” is the area between Chesterfield and Alfreton, but stresses that these would be sites outside of the Green Belt and on lower-value agricultural land.
Smaller sites for solar farms, less than one megawatt, are broadly in the same areas as the larger ones, but in more sporadic patches, also including a series of sites between Ilkeston and Kirk Hallam.
The council’s study also discusses potential wind farm placement, finding that there are a number of “theoretically viable” areas from the southwest to the east of the county, between Sudbury and Chesterfield.
It says the largest potential sites are around Darley Dale, Mugginton and Bolsover, with some scope around Buxton and the surrounding higher-altitude area.
However, it says “proximity to the National Park is highly likely to be a constraining factor due to visual impacts into the national park itself”.
Looking closer at a map drawn up as part of the study shows potential for wind farm sites in the huge area from Derby west to Uttoxeter and Ashbourne; Chesterfield south to Alfreton; Shuttlewood to Clowne; between Burton and Newton Solney; the Ilkeston area; the area encompassing Carsington Water; the River Derwent through Derby to the eastern city limits and spots throughout the city; and an area near to Belper.
A key summary piece of guidance from the county council details: “Local authorities in Derbyshire should focus on technologies which offer the greatest generation potential and which have the greatest unconstrained space for development.
“In particular, ground-mounted solar PV and small to medium-scale wind developments fulfil these criteria.
“Further focus should be placed on aggregating positive impact from buildings through local energy development, including rooftop solar PV and thermal.
“All scales of development should pay close attention to landscape sensitivity, loss or degradation of land, capacity and the cumulative impacts of technology development.”
The council also indicates that local Derbyshire authorities could look to take more action to encourage cleaner travel, including bringing in low-emission vehicle zones; clean air zones or air quality management areas; lowering speed limits in urban areas; restricting traffic in certain areas at certain times; and only licensing taxi and private hire vehicles which are electric – along with re-regulating buses.
County council consultations on potential 20mph zones in Buxton and Long Eaton are ongoing, while Ashbourne and Derby already have air quality management areas due to high levels of pollution.
A potential clean air zone is being touted in Ashbourne but has not received the support of the county council’s own leader and deputy leader.
As of 2022, Derbyshire consumes 4,547 GWh of electricity and 10,046 GWh of heat energy annually.
Energy consumed in Derbyshire is now largely sourced from outside of the region.
Meanwhile, the energy created in Derbyshire largely comes from renewable or low carbon sources, 76.2 per cent from solar panels, 10.3 per cent from wind and 10 per cent energy from waste.
The county must reduce its carbon footprint by 13.5 per cent each year in order to meet local and regional targets, with a total “carbon budget” of 38.1 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (tCO₂e) up to 2100.
Total net carbon emissions across Derbyshire totalled 7,224-kilo tCO₂e in 2019, with 36 per cent coming from “large industrial installations”, 26 per cent from transport and 18 per cent from domestic homes.
Up to 19 per cent of the county’s electrical demand could be met through rooftop solar panels, the study shows, followed by seven per cent through ground-mounted solar panels, with six per cent from wind power.
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