An argument that has been made a few times is that this “town-sized” solar power station is preferable to having another nuclear power station.
As far as I know, there isn’t a proposal for putting a nuclear power station on Graveney and Nagden Marshes, so it isn’t a direct choice. But looking past that, I think the case being made is that it is preferable to get our energy from solar rather than nuclear. This argument sounds quite simple and straightforward. But just how big would a solar park have to be to replace a nuclear power station?
If it gets built, Cleve Hill would produce 350 MW whereas Hinkley Point C is projected to produce 3,200 MW. The nuclear option would produce just over nine times as much power, so we’d need a solar power station big enough to produce at least the same amount. If Cleve Hill needs 890 acres, we can scale that up by nine too – it comes to 8,137 acres.
That’s a lot of land. The red outline in the diagram above shows just how big this would be. It’s about twice the size of the city of Canterbury.
Of course, this city-sized solar power station would only produce energy when the sun shines, whereas nuclear produces constant energy, so we’d actually need much more – probably three times the size – coupled with some very significant battery storage.
We’re not saying that nuclear is preferable, but in the UK there are better places for solar – disused airfields, demolished coal power stations, and of course on roof tops.
The next article will explore the energy mix needed in Britain using the energy plans of the late Professor David MacKay, Chief Scientific Adviser to the government.