Heckington Fen Solar Park
Our latest project in the fight against climate crisis, the Heckington Fen Solar Park, would power the equivalent of over 100,000 homes with affordable green electricity and prevent around 75,000 tonnes of harmful emissions every year.
About Heckington Fen Solar Park
Lincolnshire is one of the sunniest locations in the UK, and an ideal place for clean solar energy to make a big contribution to powering our homes.
In fact, the sun doesn’t even need to be shining – all it takes is daylight and a field of solar panels.
We use the latest technology to harvest the maximum electricity from the smallest space, including bifacial panels which make electricity from the underside as well as the top face, from light reflected off the ground.
Since October 2021, we have been asking local communities and wider stakeholders for their initial thoughts on our early plans for the solar park. This early phase of consultation ended on 17 December 2021 and we will now be considering the feedback we have received as we progress our designs. In January 2022 we requested a Scoping Opinion from the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State. Local planning authorities and statutory consultees will be able to comment on the Scoping Request which details our methodology for completing the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Why Heckington Fen?
The Heckington Fen Solar Park would be built on land already approved for the use of renewable energy, with wind 22 turbines given planning permission by the Secretary of State in February 2013. Since then, we have been unable to satisfy the Ministry of Defences radar concerns to date, which means we have not been able to start building the wind park.
The climate crisis needs fighting now, so we’re keen to use Heckington Fen to create clean, renewable energy which contributes towards the UK’s net zero targets. If the solar park is approved and constructed – we will not build the wind turbines.
The proposed solar park will generate around 3 times more electricity than the wind turbines would, and with the addition of energy storage we’ll be able to store excess green energy to use when demand on the national grid is high.
We expect the solar park to have a lifetime of 30 to 40 years, during which we’d set the land not needed for the panels to wildflower, helping the pollinators and insects the country needs so desperately. After the operational life of the project, the solar park would be decommissioned and it is expected the land would return to intensive agricultural production.
We already have a wealth of information on the site from the previous wind park application, but we are doing more assessments to make sure we go forward with the best scheme. New ecology surveys are also underway and so far confirm that the land is of limited value to wildlife due to the intensive arable farming of the land which is normally used to grow crops for animal feed.
What are we proposing?
The Heckington Fen Solar Park would comprise solar panels, either fixed or ones that track the sun across the sky. Other equipment, some under and some above ground, would be needed. The plan provides commentary of the Site Layout which was submitted with the Scoping Request in January 2022. It shows the indicative locations of the solar panels, the substation and the energy storage facility, as well as a walking route, habitat enhancement areas and a proposed community orchard.
Why do we need solar energy?
Solar power with storage is the perfect complement to Britain’s huge wind power resource. On average, we get more light in the summer and more wind in the winter, so it balances out across the seasons.
Heckington Fen Solar Park will be an important step forward in moving the UK away from fossil fuels and help to fight the climate crisis, as well as providing long-term energy security for Britain.
The UK has ambitious climate change targets to achieve net zero by 2050, going further than the previous target of 80% reduction from the 1990 baseline as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. With legally binding commitments such as these, we need to increase our renewable energy capacity to achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions.
Benefits of solar
How would it affect wildlife?
The plans will create additional wildlife habitat and involve the planting and managing of new hedgerows as well as the reinforcement of boundary planting. Parts of the site may remain in agricultural use with limited conservation grazing and green manure crops returning nutrients to the soil.
Skylarks, water voles, dragonflies and pollinators are some of the species that would benefit from the proposed environmental habitat management plan, with generous setbacks to existing drainage ditches creating habitat corridors. During the consultation process we would welcome your feedback on how the site can be developed for nature conservation.
How much electricity would the solar park generate?
The solar park would create enough clean electricity to power more than all the homes in North Kesteven, making it a real milestone in the fight against the climate crisis. Our proposals would stop over 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year from entering the atmosphere. By comparison the expected installed capacity of around 0.5GW is a quarter of the size of Nottingham’s 2GW West Burton A Coal Fired Power Station.
The anticipated yearly generation of over 385 gigawatt hours (GWh) is nearly three times that of the approved wind park and would power the equivalent of over 100,000 homes with green electricity, as well as providing energy storage to help with supply and demand of electricity on the grid network.
Energy storage will play a key role in achieving net zero, providing flexibility to the grid so that high volumes of low carbon power such as wind and solar can be integrated.
How the numbers are calculated
The installed capacity for the site is expected to be 500MW (DC) with an export capacity of 400MW AC. An annual generation for a solar park of this size could generate approximately 385 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable electricity per year. The expected renewable energy generation calculation can be carried out as follows:
400,000kW (400MW x 1000) x 8,766 (number of hours in a year 365.25days to account for leap years * 24hours) x 0.11 (calculated using a capacity factor sourced from DUKES averaged over five years, (BEIS 2021)) = 385,704,000kWh.
Based on this annual electricity generation figure of 385GWh, we estimate that the proposed solar park could supply renewable electricity equivalent to the approximate annual domestic needs of some 133,000 typical UK households per annum (385,704,000kWh ÷ 2,900kWh) based on Ofgem Typical Domestic Consumption Values.
Using electricity consumptions figures by BEIS the number of homes powered could be some 102,250 (385,704,000kWh ÷ 3,772kWh), or using a local average of electricity supply for North Kesteven 97,597 homes (385,704,000kWh ÷ 3,952kWh) due to the higher than average electricity use locally.
Capacity factor, or load factor, is a term often used to consider the performance of solar parks (and other forms of generation). It means how much electricity a site generates in a year compared to how much electricity could theoretically have been generated if it were producing at maximum output continuously. An industry standard is to use an average capacity factor over five years for the purposes of these calculations, these can be found at the BEIS link below.
Estimated Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Savings: To predict the estimated carbon dioxide emissions from electricity supplied from the solar park to the grid, the current grid mix is considered, which comprises all fuels, including nuclear and renewables. The 2019 figure is 201 tonnes of CO2 per GWh of electricity supplied (BEIS), meaning the proposed solar park could result in a yearly saving of 77,527 tonnes of CO2. The proposed solar park will, therefore, make a positive contribution towards the UK Government’s climate change objectives. This calculation is 385,704,000/1,000,000 (kWh to GWh) * 201gCO2/kWh = 77,527 tonnes per year.
Local domestic household consumption in North Kesteven totals 200GWh per annum, therefore the 385GWh the solar park could produce is well in excessive of this. This data is based on BEIS ‘regional and local authority electricity consumption statistics’ (BEIS, 2020)
BEIS. 2021. Renewable sources of energy
Ofgem. 2020. Typical Domestic Consumption Values
The planning process
As the proposed generation capacity exceeds 50 megawatts (MW), the solar park will be classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). The consenting regime for NSIPs comes under the Planning Act 2008 and requires Ecotricity to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO).
The Heckington Fen Solar Park DCO application would be examined by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) – the independent body responsible for examining NSIPs – who would make a recommendation on the application to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Secretary of State makes the final decision on a DCO application.
We expect to submit the full application to PINS in January 2023, with the site ‘scoped’ for environmental purposes with the Secretary of State in early 2022. A Scoping Opinion will provide feedback to us from statutory consultees in February 2022. This will inform the Preliminary Environmental Information Report which will be shared with you during the statutory consultation in summer 2022. More details below.
Following submission, a decision could be made by mid-2024. Subject to the grid connection date construction could start after this date and is expected to take some 12-18months. The site could be operational as early as 2026.
Have your say
As part of the planning process we want to hear your views on our proposals for Heckington Fen. This is important to us and will help influence our designs for the solar park.
Many of you will have provided valuable contributions during our engagement on the wind park proposals, and we welcome your input again as we look to bring forward our new plans.
Between October and 17th December 2021, we undertook our first phase of consultation with local communities and stakeholders about our early plans for the solar park. This will help to inform our designs ahead of our formal statutory consultation. Thank you to all those that took the time to join our virtual consultation events and provide us with your views, which we are now considering as we progress our plans for the solar park.
In summer 2022, we will be holding a formal consultation where we will present full details of our proposals, setting out how our proposals have evolved following early engagement, and seek your input on key elements, including siting, enhancements and access.