Huge solar farm could power Norfolk's largest 'vertical farm'

A 130-acre solar farm has been proposed for Colton, a village east of Norwich

A 130-acre solar farm has been proposed for Colton, east of Norwich - Credit: Google maps

A massive solar farm proposal for the edge of a Norfolk village could help power a trailblazing indoor farming scheme.

The 130-acre solar farm - around the same size as 65 football pitches - could be built near Colton, to the west of Norwich. 

If the plans get the go-ahead, it would help power a food production park, including a £25m 'vertical farm' -  an indoor growing space with trays from floor to ceiling growing salad and herbs for supermarkets.

The solar farm would generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 12,498 homes, offsetting more than 9,033 tonnes of CO2 every year.

In plans submitted to South Norfolk Council (SNC), the developers say the energy would be used to power the Food Enterprise Park (FEP) - a 46-acre food production site near Easton.

The FEP is used by a variety of businesses, including Colman's and Fisher Farms, which aims to open the largest 'vertical farm' in Norfolk by the end of 2022.

Projects currently underway at the FEP

The solar developers, Pathfinder Clean Energy, said there was currently not enough power to support the growth of the FEP.

It said it would lease the land from the current farmer, providing a diverse form of income at a time of falling government subsidies, while also improving biodiversity and offering grazing land for sheep.

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The development is expected to take a year and then stay in place for 40 years, after which the land will be returned to agricultural use.

In Pathfinder's planning statement to SNC, it said the farmer who owns the site has noted a series of issues with the land that makes farming difficult.

He said areas are prone to waterlogging, others parts are too dry to cultivate, while some are shaped in a way that makes farming difficult.

As part of a consultation, Barnham Broom Parish Council raised concerns about potential fire risk from batteries, disorientating effects of glare from the panels and the development being too visible.

Pathfinder said it used a Lithium-Ion battery considered to be "exceptionally safe" and that the site would be fitted with a fire suppression system.

The panels will also be fitted with anti-reflective coating to reduce glare and the site will be screened, with new hedgerows planted.