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Planning approval granted for major solar farm set to help power a hospital

12th Dec 2023

A 6MW solar farm on a former colliery site at Coed Ely in south Wales has secured planning approval and is set to provide power to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, helping both the hospital and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council meet their decarbonisation targets.

The scheme is expected to deliver a reduction of more than 7,355 tonnes of carbon during its 40-year lifespan. It will connect 5MW of power directly to the National Grid and 1MW via private wire to the nearby Royal Glamorgan Hospital.

Acting for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, a multi-disciplinary team of engineers and renewable energy specialists from across Hydrock has led the feasibility studies and guided the planning application. Our team is also supporting the council to procure the contractor, and will oversee the build phase in 2024 and assist with the operations and maintenance programme that follows.

This is a significant achievement for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, which has committed to becoming a carbon-neutral council by 2030.

Dan Beynon, Hydrock's regional director for Wales, explains:

I can't understate how huge this step is for this progressive council in decarbonising the grid and supplying renewable energy to the local hospital which will help to reduce energy costs and support their decarbonisation targets as well. It's a perfect example of how to create valuable new use from a brownfield site. The soil quality on this reclaimed colliery site is unsuitable for crops, but grazing rights for animals has been maintained, alongside a fantastic clean energy scheme, so it’s a positive outcome for both farming and decarbonisation.

The site will be made up of 10.992 photovoltaic (PV) panels, half of which will face east, and half towards the west, allowing use throughout the day. The panels will be installed at a low pitch to reduce potential glare sometimes associated with solar farms. Underground cables will connect the solar farm to the local distribution network and the hospital.

Renewable energy consultant, Bruce Fair of Hydrock spoke about the complexities of this former colliery site:

The topography of this former coal tip has been the most challenging aspect for our engineering team. The solar design and geological investigations were key to achieving the most optimum solar layout for the scheme, and our MEP team has been instrumental in working on cable routes to the hospital. It's all been worth it when you consider the outcome is hugely positive in terms of the multi-dimensional benefit from decarbonisation and the public sector energy savings.

Our team has handled the full PV design, including mounting, electrical infrastructure, panels, site access, foundation design and layout. We've also modelled the costs and the long-term financial benefits to the local authority in keeping with their climate change strategy.

During the consultation period, Councillor Tina Leyshon, cabinet member for climate change and corporate services, said:

I am delighted to see the Council making positive steps towards generating renewable energy through the development of our first-ever land-based solar farm. I also think it's important to highlight how this project can be an example of how solar energy can also have a positive impact on biodiversity and farming.

Our team has collaborated with The Urbanists as the planners and Rhomco as project managers to achieve this successful planning approval which enables the scheme to push ahead towards construction, expected to start in 2024.

Dan Beynon, who is delighted with the outcome, added:

This is another critical step towards achieving the Welsh Government's ambition for a net zero public sector by 2030. It also builds on the strong collaborative relationship we have with the council following the delivery of other major change programmes, such as Llys Cadwyn.