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Plans for solar energy farm between Murton and South Hetton to be unveiled

May 25, 2021 | Business

Local residents, councillors and other members of the community are invited to a virtual public consultation for a proposed solar farm between Murton and South Hetton.

Hawthorn Pit Solar Farm is being developed by Aura Power. The company is proposing a subsidy-free solar farm of up to 49.9MW that would generate enough renewable electricity to supply the equivalent of over 17,000 typical homes. It would save an estimated 15,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, making a substantial contribution to local and national net zero targets. Durham County Council declared a Climate Emergency in February 2019 and has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2030.

Because of Covid restrictions, Aura Power will hold the consultation online, using the Zoom webinar platform, on Tuesday 8th June 2021 at 6pm. The virtual event will provide an opportunity for local people to view the proposals, ask questions and provide feedback, which Aura will take into account before submitting its planning application.

Those interested in attending the event will need to register in advance, via the following link on the Aura Power website: www.aurapower.co.uk/hawthornpit-solar-farm

Chris Featonby, UK Development Manager, Aura Power, said: “County Durham and the area around Murton have a long and historic association with energy production. The UK’s transition away from fossil fuels to a renewable future brings with it many exciting and innovative opportunities for the local area.

“Hawthorn Pit Solar Farm would not only provide a source of locally-generated clean energy but a range of biodiversity and financial benefits too. Our plans will include new trees and hedgerow planting which will help to screen the solar farm from nearby residences and boost biodiversity as well as areas of wildflower planting. We will also provide a community benefit fund to support local educational and environmental initiatives in the area.”

Aura Power has secured a grid connection at the nearby Hawthorn Pit substation which is a key requirement for the viability of a solar farm. The land is currently low-grade agricultural land, being used for crops. Agricultural use can continue with sheep grazing between the panels and beehives on the site.

Aura is also proposing to set up a Community Benefit Fund of £350 per MW, index-linked, per year, for the lifetime of the solar farm. This could amount to £17,500 a year for 40 years or £700,000 in total. £2,000 a year would be set aside for educational sessions with local schools and site visits to the solar farm. Aura is particularly keen to find out from local people what projects might benefit from the funding.

Aura has sent out around 900 invitations to local people living near the proposed site. For anyone who is unable to attend live, the consultation event will be pre-recorded and available to view afterwards on the Aura Power website. Those without access to the internet are invited to contact Aura Power directly to receive the information by post.

It should be noted that there is no connection between Aura Power’s planning application for the solar farm and National Grid’s planning application for its SEGL1 electricity link.