Plans drawn up for 124-acre solar farm on the edge of St Albans

A solar farm has been proposed for land at Smallford Pit in St Albans. Picture: Archant

A solar farm has been proposed for land at Smallford Pit in St Albans. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Plans for a 124-acre solar farm on the edge of St Albans are being drawn up by Herts county council.

Smallford Pit - which sits in the Green Belt on the edge of the A414 - has been earmarked for a £26.5 million solar facility, which would include thousands of solar panels and battery storage.

The proposals were endorsed by members of the county council's cabinet on Monday, December 16, and within days the county council will make a payment of £50,000 to UK Power Networks in order to secure grid availability.

Officers from the county council, who have already held informal talks with planners at St Albans district council, will then explore the options and develop the plans further.

Electricity generated from the solar farm, which is on a former landfill site, could be used by the county council or sold back to the grid. The energy generated by the solar farm could bring an estimated £2 million a year to the county council.

At the meeting of the cabinet, executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster said: "Renewable energy sources are becoming more affordable and desirable.

"As a significant land owner, we are always looking to find suitable uses for land which as been identified as sub optimal agricultural land and is not suitable for contributing to our county's growth agenda.

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"A site at Smallford Pit has been identified as suitable for the development of a 22 mega-watt solar photovoltaic energy and battery storage facility.

"This has the potential to significantly contribute to the council's objective of reducing its carbon consumption and contribute to its annual revenue budget."

The Smallford Pit site, which is currently used to graze horses, had been put forward as a potential site for residential development, but it was not taken forward by the district council.

Renewable energy projects are not listed as appropriate development within the Green Belt, but the proposal may meet the 'very special circumstances' required, and the site is judged to have good grid connectivity potential.

Guidance will be received from the district council planners before the £50,000 is paid, and if the proposal does not go ahead part of the money could be returned.