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Who is Low Carbon?
Low Carbon is a leading, privately-owned UK investment and asset management company specialising in renewable energy. We were founded with the aim of having a lasting and positive impact on climate change. In practice, this means responsible and innovative investments into large-scale renewable energy projects, a commitment to protecting the earth’s natural resources, and dedication to creating a low-carbon future for all.
Low Carbon has facilitated the deployment of more than £600 million in capital into renewable energy infrastructure with more than 1GW already developed.
Our proprietary renewable energy pipeline currently stands at more than 5GW, ideally positioning us to capitalise on investment opportunities as the need for green power and energy security increases. These investments are generating sufficient clean energy to power more than 427,000 homes*, avoiding more than 750,000 tonnes of CO₂* each year.
Investing across the full life cycle from concept, through to development, construction and operation, Low Carbon has been active in large-scale solar energy since forming in 2011, and we are currently one of the largest asset managers of solar parks in Britain. lowcarbon.com
* Low Carbon internal calculations using OFGEM Typical Domestic Consumption Values and BEIS Carbon Conversion Factors
Why is Beacon Fen Energy Park needed?
The transition to a low carbon energy system is necessary to avoid the effects of climate change. The UK’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was enshrined by law in June 2019 – the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. However, as the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual report in June 2021 made clear, while the climate promises UK Government’s has made deserve credit, it has been slow to follow through with delivery and our journey to net zero is not yet half completed.
This is a decisive decade for tackling climate emergency. More renewable energy is needed to fast-track the transition away from fossil fuel electricity generation, with onshore and offshore wind and solar providing some of the key building blocks of the future generation mix.
With an anticipated generation capacity of over 50 megawatts (MW) Beacon Fen Energy Park would make a significant contribution towards achieving net zero; providing utility-scale clean energy to National Grid’s electricity transmission system.
Why has Low Carbon chosen this location at Beacon Fen?
We consider a range of factors when evaluating land available to deliver a utility-scale clean energy scheme, including planning and environmental factors including existing use and quality of land, and well as any designations and constraints. However one of the factors ultimately informing site choice when looking at potential locations for new utility-scale solar development is available capacity on the local grid.
In the instance of Beacon Fen Energy Park, the nearby Bicker Fen connection to the grid means we can utilise existing electricity infrastructure. Rather than build a new connection to the grid, this also means we can reduce the potential impacts of the solar energy park.
What is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)?
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects otherwise known as NSIPs are large scale projects over a certain size which means they are considered by the Government to be nationally important. Permission to build them therefore needs to be determined at a national level – namely by the responsible Government Minister (‘Secretary of State’).
Instead of applying to a local planning authority for planning permission, when seeking consent for an NSIP the developer needs to apply to the Planning Inspectorate a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the final scheme. The process for applying for a DCO is set out in the Planning Act 2008.
The anticipated generation capacity of Beacon Fen Energy Park is more than the 50MW threshold set out in the Planning Act 2008 which means it is regarded as an NSIP.
For projects with an installed capacity of 50MW or less, a developer is required to apply for planning permission for the relevel local planning authority (LPA) under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
In the case of energy related projects the Planning Inspectorate acts on behalf of the Secretary of State at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It will carry out an examination of the application for development consent and then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether or not to grant consent. The Secretary of State for Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will then make the final decision on whether to grant consent for the scheme.
You can find out more about the process of applying for a DCO on the National Infrastructure Planning website
What is the timescale you are working on to deliver Beacon Fen Energy Park?
We anticipate that the development process through DCO submission and examination will take between two to three years. We intend to submit our application for development consent to the Planning Inspectorate in early to mid 2024. Subject to consent being granted, construction would start no sooner than 2026.
What will be included in the solar energy park?
Beacon Fen Energy Park would comprise the installation of solar photovoltaic panels (PV) and an on-site energy storage facility.
The on-site storage facilities would provide an important balancing service for the national grid whereby electricity generated by the panels can be stored on site at times when grid-demand is low, then exported at times of higher demand.
Our plans for the project will also include any necessary and appropriate environmental mitigation and enhancement measures to ensure the scheme treads as lightly as possible on the local area.
The principle components of the energy park would include:
► Ground mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels converting sunlight into electricity
► PV module mounting structures
► Supporting infrastructure – inverters, transformers and switchgear – converting the direct current to alternating current and stepping up the voltage so it can be exported to the national grid
► Onsite cables connecting the solar PV modules and energy storage system to invertors which, in turn, connect to the transformers. Higher voltage cables will then be required between transformers and the switchgear and from the switchgear to the offsite electrical infrastructure
► An energy storage system so electricity generated by the solar PV panels can be stored on site and released to the national grid when it is needed most.
► On-site substation to export electricity from the energy park to the national grid.
► Security fencing enclosing the operational areas of the site in the form of ‘deer fence’ or other mesh fencing, along with pole mounted internal facing closed circuit television (CCTV) deployed around the perimeter of the operational site
► Accesses to the site during construction and for routine maintenance when the energy park is operational
► New planting around the site perimeter and within the solar PV area to enhance biodiversity and improve the landscape
► During construction one or more temporary construction compounds will be required, as well as temporary roadways, to enable access to all the land within the site boundary
► Solar PV and energy storage technologies are rapidly evolving. The parameters of the application we submit for development consent will therefore maintain flexibility to allow us to use the latest technology available at the time of construction.
In addition, an electrical connection will also form part of the design so that the Energy Park can be connected into the existing national electricity transmission system at National Grid’s Bicker Fen substation.
Where will the Energy Park connect to the national grid?
We have secured a connection agreement with National Grid for the electricity generated by Beacon Fen Energy Park to be exported into the national electricity transmission system via its existing Bicker Fen substation in Lincolnshire.
Will local communities be able to have their say on your proposals?
Yes. Public consultation forms an important and statutory part of the pre-application process for NSIPs. Ongoing engagement will serve to inform and influence our development of the proposals for Beacon Fen Energy Park. Local residents, stakeholders and residents al have an important role to play.
The development of our proposals for Beacon Fen Energy Park will be an iterative process. Prior to submitting a Development Consent Order (DCO), we plan to hold two phases of consultation inviting stakeholders to share their views and provide feedback on our proposals. This includes an early (non-statutory) phase of consultation which was held in May-June 2023. We are planning to carry out a second, statutory, phase of consultation in winter 2023 where we will share more detailed proposals for the project, including environmental information and how we have taken into account feedback submitted during the early (non-statutory) consultation.
What is the Statement of Community Consultation?
The Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC) is a document which outlines how Low Carbon plans to consult with the local community during its statutory consultation. It also outlines proposed timelines for the consultation period and how consultees can provide their feedback during the statutory consultation and shape the project.
The SoCC is available to download on our website here and is also displayed in hard copy at the below points for the local community to review.
|LOCATION AND ADDRESS||OPENING TIMES|
|Heckington Community Library, St Andrew’s Street, Heckington, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 9RE||Monday 10:00 – 12:00
Tuesday 10:00 – 12:00
Wednesday 10:00 – 12:00
Thursday 10:00 – 12:00
Friday 10:00 – 12:00
Saturday 10:00 – 12:00
|Sleaford Library, 13-16 Market Place, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 7SR||Monday 09:00 – 17:00
Tuesday 09:00 – 17:00
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00
Thursday 09:00 – 18:00
Friday 09:00 – 17:00
Saturday 09:00 – 13:00
|South Kyme Golf Club, 1 Skinner’s Lane, South Kyme, Lincolnshire, LN4 4AT||Monday 07:00 – 16:30
Tuesday 07:00 – 16:30
Friday 07:00 – 16:30
Saturday 07:00 – 16:30
Sunday 07:00 – 16:30
|Swineshead Pre-School Centre, North End, Swineshead, Boston,
Lincolnshire, PE20 3LZ
|Monday 08:00 – 15:00
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00
|Lincolnshire County Council Offices, Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL||Monday 08:00 – 17:00
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00
Friday 08:00 – 17:00
|Boston Library, Bank Street Entrance, County Hall, Boston, PE21 6DY||Monday 09:00 – 17:00
Tuesday 09:00 – 17:00
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00
Thursday 09:00 – 18:00
Friday 09:00 – 17:00
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00
For further information about the SoCC, please view the news article here.
Will the site create any jobs once it is built?
Once operational, Beacon Fen Energy Park would have an estimated 14 permanent employees.
How long will Beacon Fen Energy Park be in operation?
The design life of Beacon Fen Energy Park is expected to be around 40 years. We will review the condition of the equipment throughout the lifetime of the project and at the end of its intended design life decide whether it remains in a viable condition to continue operation after that time. Any extension of the life of Beacon Fen Energy Park beyond the 40 years would be dependent on new negotiations with landowners and new planning consent.
Will there be noise and visual impacts from Beacon Fen Energy Park?
As part of our work to develop our proposals for the energy park, we are carrying out a range of surveys to ensure the levels of noise produced by the equipment onsite is within an acceptable range and a full noise impact assessment will be included as part of our application for development consent.
Similarly, studies are ongoing to minimise the visual impact of scheme, with screening and planting design being incorporated into the final design to reduce visual impact as well as provide environmental enhancement areas and buffer zones.
How long would it take to build Beacon Fen Energy Park subject to the scheme being granted consent?
Subject to achieving consent, it is anticipated the project, including the grid connection, would take between two to three years to build. Based on our current programme, in the event of being granted consent the earliest construction would start is 2026 with the scheme then becoming operational in 2029.
How will Beacon Fen Energy Park affect local ecology and wildlife?
Low Carbon is committed to enhancing the existing biodiversity within the boundary of the land available for the project. We will be expected to demonstrate a biodiversity net gain of 10 per cent as a minimum on the site. Surveys are being undertaken by ecologists to determine the native species and habitats onsite. Independent evidence of biodiversity net gains on solar farms, using metrics provided by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, shows that solar farm biodiversity net gain can range from 20% to over 100%, see our Briefing Fact Checker (Page 7)
Measures could include providing new habitats, connecting and enhancing existing habitats, new planting of hedgerows and woodland, seeding of wildflower and new grassland and the introduction of grazing.
Will the site be lit at night?
The site will not be floodlit at any time.
How much of the land comprising the site on which Beacon Fen Energy Park is proposed as being built will be taken out of productive agricultural use if the scheme goes ahead?
There is always a balance to be found when new development comes forward, with many factors and impacts to consider. Due to its proposed location, Beacon Fen Energy Park will utilise land that could be used for food production. However, the land take involved is minimal in the context of food production across Lincolnshire and allows clean energy to be generated at greater scale and efficiency than rooftop alternatives.
Solar farms provide valuable income for farmers, they can still be used for grazing, and they support UK farmers to continue food production on other parts of their land. The independent National Food Strategy Review shows that solar farms do not in any way present a risk to the UK’s food security. Briefing Fact Checker (Page 9)
Does the UK risk being covered with solar farms everywhere?
In the UK, new solar farms occupy roughly four acres of land per MW of installed capacity. All solar farms in the UK currently account for 0.08% of total land use.
To meet the government’s net zero target, the Climate Change Committee estimates that we will need between 75-90GW of solar by 2050. Analysis indicates this would mean solar farms would at most account for approximately 0.4-0.6% of UK land – less than the amount currently used for golf courses. Briefing Fact Checker (Page 10)
Why have you revised your proposals to withdraw Beacon Fen South?
More than 200 people engaged with our early (non-statutory) consultation between 15 May and 18 June. A wide variety of feedback was received, including concerns over how the energy park could work with another proposed nationally significant infrastructure project – the Anglian Water Lincolnshire reservoir which is proposed on the same land identified for Beacon Fen South. Beacon Fen Energy Park could commence construction in 2026, but due to the scale and nature of the reservoir project, its Development Consent Order (DCO) application will not be determined by then, which could have caused delays to Beacon Fen Energy Park as a whole.
Therefore Beacon Fen South, which was planned for land near to the village of Helpringham and hamlet of Burton Pedwardine (southeast of Sleaford), has been withdrawn from the Beacon Fen Energy Park proposals.
How do you calculate the number of houses powered by the project?
The installed capacity for the site is expected to be 400 megawatts (MW). An annual generation for a solar park of this size could generate approximately 373 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 365.25 days to account for leap years x 24 hours) x 0.11 (calculated using a capacity factor sourced from DUKES averaged over five years, (DUKES 6.3, BEIS 2022)) = 372,825,600kWh.
Based on this annual electricity generation figure of 373GWh, we estimate that the proposed solar park could supply renewable electricity equivalent to the approximate annual domestic needs of some 130,000 typical UK households per annum (372,825,600kWh ÷ 2,900kWh), based on Ofgem Typical Domestic Consumption Values.
BEIS. 2023 Update – dated 2005 – 2021. Regional and local authority electricity consumption statistics
DUKES TABLE 6.3, BEIS. 2022. Renewable sources of energy
Ofgem. 2020. Typical Domestic Consumption Values
How do you calculate the estimated carbon dioxide emissions savings?
To predict the estimated carbon dioxide emissions from electricity supplied from the solar park to the grid, the grid mix is considered, which comprises all fuels including nuclear and renewables. In 2021, the emissions intensity of the UK’s electricity grid was 0.21233kgCO2e/kWh (DEFRA, 2021), meaning the proposed solar park could result in a yearly saving of 72,097 tonnes of CO2. This calculation is 372,825,600 x 0.21233/1,000 = 72,097 tonnes per year.
DEFRA. 2021. Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2021
Why does the amount of carbon dioxide emissions savings change year-on-year?
The UK electricity factor is prone to fluctuate from year to year as the fuel mix consumed in UK power stations (and auto-generators) and the proportion of net imported electricity changes. These annual changes can be large as the factor depends very heavily on the relative prices of coal and natural gas as well as fluctuations in peak demand and renewables. In the 2019 GHG Conversion Factors, there was a 10% decrease in the UK Electricity CO2e factor compared to the previous year. In the 2020 update, the CO2e factor decreased (compared with 2019) again by 9%. In the 2021 update, the CO2e factor has again decreased by 9% (in comparison to the 2020 update). The above decreases are all due to a decrease in coal use in electricity generation and an increase in renewable generation (DEFRA.2021).
DEFRA. 2021. Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2021
What will the impact on the local roads be during construction?
Prior to submitting our Development Consent Order (DCO) application, we will need to consider the entire strategic transport network, which is currently being assessed. In order to do so, we will need to consider all possible one-way and two-way routes.
New construction access road
After receiving community feedback, Low Carbon is considering creating a new construction access road to the proposed Beacon Fen Energy Park.
Should it go ahead, this would enable construction traffic to access the site from a new haul road, linking the A17 to Heckington Road, and joining it between Howell and Ewerby Road.
Work is still ongoing to determine preferred access routes and more information will be available during the Statutory Consultation in Winter 23/24.
Please find more information about the proposed access road here – https://www.beaconfenenergypark.co.uk/2023/10/27/new-access-road-proposed-for-beacon-fen-energy-park/