East/west oriented solar panels

The developer’s Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report (opens a large PDF) provides a few details about one very important aspect of the proposal:

The modules are fixed to a mounting structure in groups known as “strings”. The Development proposes to utilise strings that are oriented towards the east and west, rather than orientated towards the south which is more commonly seen on existing UK solar parks. The modules are expected to be angled towards the east and west at a slope of 5 to 20 degrees from horizontal. An east/west orientation allows more modules to be utilised onsite, increasing the electrical generating potential and overall energy yield of the Development.

There are two images in the report to show what this could look like:

East West oriented from scoping report 1East West oriented from scoping report 2

These images show how dense an east/west orientation of solar panels is. Note how dark the area below appears to be. With such a dense covering the land below the panels will shielded from light and rain. These pictures do not look like any solar park we’ve ever seen before – in fact they look more like huge industrial buildings.

Given the scale of Cleve Hill’s proposed development (the biggest in the UK and the same size as a whole town) the impact of this arrangement is likely to be highly significant. Covering so much countryside with huge structures that are like industrial buildings is monstrous.

Why would the developer pick this unusual layout? The answer is in the report: “increasing the … overall energy yield of the Development”. Simply put, the higher density of panels will provide higher profits for the developer.

But could the environmental impact be the desertification the land beneath the panels?

NB: The detail in this post is sourced directly from the developers’ published information.