Introduction

Ridge Clean Energy are developing a renewable energy park, consisting of a solar farm and a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), on the former RAF Folkingham airfield and surrounding land in Lincolnshire.

The progress of the project will be updated on this website, posting updates on:

  • The Project
  • Timeline & Consultation
  • News
  • Community Partnership

You can contact the Project Team via the ‘Contact Us’ tab with comments, questions, or ideas.

  View Site Boundary
Ridge Clean Energy

Project Outline

  • The project would be located on the former RAF Folkingham airfield and surrounding arable land, approximately 2km south west of Folkingham village centre.
  • The project could generate up to 240MWac of solar photovoltaic electricity.
  • The project could host up to 240MW of BESS (Battery Energy Storage System).
  • It is currently estimated that the solar farm could generate as much electricity each year as is used by approximately 75,000 East Midlands homes (BEIS, 2021).
  • From the displacement of electricity generated from fossil fuel powered generation, the proposed development would offset the emissions of a significant quantity of pollutants. This reduction in emissions would contribute to the national legislation of net zero emissions by 2050, as well as the climate emergency declared by South Kesteven District Council.
  • The project would result in a substantial net gain for biodiversity, through new ecological and enhanced planting measures, including beehives.
  • Once the renewable energy park is operating, funding will be made available to the local community to help fund community initiatives.

Project Location

This site has been purposely identified as a suitable site for a large scale solar development whilst having a limited visual impact on the surrounding area.

  • A substantial portion of the proposed renewable energy park is sited on the former RAF Folkingham airfield.
  • The nearest settlement is over 800m away from the site boundary.
  • The site is contained to one area.
  • The topography and existing natural vegetation provide significant visual screening. Additional vegetative screening will also be planted during the construction phase.
  • A recent Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) survey has classified the land as ‘Grade 3b’ and ‘Non-agricultural’, meaning it is not considered Best and Most Versatile (BMV) land.

The Planning Process

As the project would exceed 50MW of electricity generation, the project is deemed to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). The NSIP process is overseen by The Planning Inspectorate (PINS), and determined by the Secretary of State rather than the Local Planning Authority, which is a statutory consultee.

A Development Consent Order (DCO) is the process of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP).

Solar Generation

Up to 240MWac

Battery Storage

Up to 240MW

Homes Powered

Up to 75,000

  Project Timeline

Pre-application (No Set Time) - Current Stage of Development

Before submitting an application, potential applicants have a statutory duty to carry out consultation on their proposals. The length of time taken to prepare and consult on a project will vary depending upon its scale and complexity. Responding to an applicant’s Pre-application consultation is the best time to influence a project, whether you agree with it, disagree with it, or believe it could be improved.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Acceptance (28 Days)

The Acceptance stage begins when an applicant submits an application for development consent to the Planning Inspectorate. There follows a period of up to 28 days (excluding the date of receipt of the application) for the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State, to decide whether or not the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Pre-examination (3 Months)

At this stage, the public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party by making a Relevant Representation. A Relevant Representation is a summary of a person’s views on an application, made in writing. An Examining Authority is also appointed at the Pre-examination stage, and all Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Exhamination (6 Months)

During this stage Interested Parties who have registered by making a Relevant Representation are invited to provide more details of their views in writing. Careful consideration is given by the Examining Authority to all the important and relevant matters including the representations of all Interested Parties, any supporting evidence submitted and answers provided to the Examining Authority’s questions set out in writing or posed at hearings.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Recommendation and Decision (6 Months)

The Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report on the application to the relevant Secretary of State, including a recommendation, within three months of the close of the six month Examination stage. The relevant Secretary of State then has a further three months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Post Decision (6 Weeks)

Once a decision has been issued by the relevant Secretary of State, there is a six week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court. This process of legal challenge is known as Judicial Review.

Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline Ridge Clean Energy - Project Timeline

Consultation

We are currently conducting further site assessments, with the intention to hold Statutory Consultation events later in 2024.

This page will provide further updates on the project as it progresses.

EIA Scoping Report July 2022

On 4th July 2022, we submitted our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Scoping Report to the Planning Inspectorate. On the 10th August 2022, The Planning Inspectorate issued their Scoping Opinion.

You can visit the Temple Oaks page on the Planning Inspectorate’s website here and view the Scoping document here.

Posters from Public Exhibitions June 2022

In late June we hosted six non-statutory public exhibitions in the local area.

The information posters that were on display can be viewed below. Click on each poster to enlarge it.

Newsletter May 2022

What We Do

Successful projects require alignment of interests amongst landowners, communities, policy makers, and businesses.

The Ridge team works hard to understand interests and build enduring partnerships.

  Community Partnerships

At Ridge Clean Energy we take pride in our comprehensive community engagement process. We begin our community engagement from a very early stage and plan to maintain this engagement and support throughout the lifetime of each project.

  Community Benefits

During the public exhibitions in June 2022 RCE donated to a local plant stall and seed packets for a fete. Ridge Clean Energy are involved in suggesting local grants for project work including the Folkingham Creative Arts at the Old School and a defibrillator for Lenton Church. RCE have donated to Coronation community celebrations in the parishes of Kirkby Underwood and Ingoldsby for children’s activities. In May 2023, we are also sponsoring the children’s activities at the Georgian Festival in Folkingham organised by the Aveland History Group.

The Irnham Community Entertainment provides an excellent service for residents with entertainment in the surroundings of Irnham Hall at the summer house including a raffle. RCE are keeping in contact with the renovations at St James’ Church in Aslackby. We have also engaged with a local primary school to introduce the proposed project and talk about climate change.

If you have any ideas on how we can support your local area, please complete our Local Community Survey below.

  Our Experience

We have an experienced Community Partnership Team that work with local communities to create enduring local benefits.

Each project is assigned a Community Partnership Coordinator, who will forge relationships with key stakeholders in the area to identify and develop local initiatives and ideas that will support the community and its path to Net Zero.

Alongside our experience, we can also provide up-front seed capital and support with fundraising for local projects, allowing a community to benefit right from the beginning of the partnership.

Net Zero Community App

We have also developed an integrated smartphone application called the Net Zero Community App. This app has been designed to help the local community measure and achieve their carbon reduction.

  Community Survey

  Project FAQs

Land Use

The UK urgently needs to decarbonise its energy mix and boost its domestic energy security, which means developments like the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park are really important. Solar is currently one of the cheapest forms of energy and is quick to develop and construct.

Whilst the land wouldn’t be used to grow crops during the operational period, the landowner can continue to farm their remaining farmland. At the end of the operational period, the landowner would be free to farm the land once again, on better agricultural land with a higher organic carbon content having secured the diversification of their farming practice for generations to come.


Land between the panels would likely be sown with a wildflower seed mix and left fallow to become a biodiverse rich habitat which would increase in organic carbon content over the lifetime of the project. The land wouldn’t be sprayed and would be in a better state for agricultural production once decommissioned. Following decommissioning, studies have shown that a field that has been allowed to lie fallow for just a year produces a higher crop yield when it is re-planted.


The solar panel rows are spaced to maximise the amount of clean renewable energy generated, whilst allowing a net gain in biodiversity. Unfortunately, the spacing isn’t large enough to allow machines to sow and harvest crops.


The quality of agricultural land at the site has been scientifically classified as predominantly ‘Grade 3b’ and the rest ‘Non-agricultural’, meaning no Best and Most Versatile (BMV) land will be lost.

A large proportion of the site is on a former airfield, meaning it is partly brownfield. Some of the existing hardstanding areas, including the concrete runway, will be utilised as part of the development. There is also no Best and Most Versatile (BMV) agricultural land present at the site. In addition, there is significant separation from the nearest properties and the area is already naturally well-screened due to the topography and existing vegetation.

The proposed development is designed to maximise the use of the site and availability of land, whilst minimising visual impact on the local area. Having one larger project is much more efficient than having several smaller projects.


Access & Construction

If delivery vehicles were averaged out across a 24 month construction period, there would be approximately 8 ‘two way’ heavy goods vehicles (HGV) movements per day – equating to 16 daily movements.


There are many ways that the impacts can be mitigated, including set delivery hours and speed restrictions on vehicles. More detail will be provided in the Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP), which will be submitted as part of the planning application.


Firstly, access tracks would be built throughout the site. These tracks will likely be made of crushed stone, which would be left to grass over in time. Due to the existing concrete roads and runway that are present at the site, fewer new tracks will be required, reducing the need for raw materials.

Once the tracks are in place, the supporting frames for the solar panels are pushed into the ground. The solar panels themselves would then be bolted on to the frames, connected up by underground wiring and the site then secured with fencing.

There has been some media attention about the development of solar panels in certain countries, however, more and more panels are now being manufactured in countries like Germany, America and Canada. A commercial decision would be made at a later stage if planning permission is granted. Ridge Clean Energy is not tied to any particular manufacturer.


Operational Period

The solar panels will be up to 3.5m at their highest point.


Solar farms are temporary developments. We will be seeking development consent for an operational period of 40 years. Technology could look very different in 40 years’ time, so it’s only right that the land isn’t left for solar generation in perpetuity.


After this time, the site would be decommissioned and all equipment removed. The landowner would be free to return the land to agricultural use. If anything else were to happen to the land, it would require a new planning permission at that point in time.

Solar panels are robust and would generally last for the operational period of the development. The battery units would likely be replaced every decade.


One of the planning conditions accompanying any planning permission would likely set the dimensions and overall heights of the development. If new technology becomes available during the operational period, and it fits within the stipulated dimensions from the initial planning permission, then we could consider using the new technology if it increased output of the site and was economical to do so.

The electricity generated by the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park would feed directly into the local electricity distribution network. There may be times when this electricity is distributed to the local area, or it may be used more widely. However, there would not be a direct connection from the site to the local community.

Once solar farms are operational they are very self-sufficient. The panels would be cleaned approximately once a year, which would take 1-2 weeks, given the size of the project. The site would have a general inspection once a month and undergo electrical safety checks twice a year.

All visits during the operational period would be conducted in small vans and therefore traffic impacts would be negligible.


Battery Storage

The battery storage containers are sealed units with appropriate prevention measures in place to prevent, and if necessary contain, any leaks. They would also be placed on hardstandings to act as another barrier to reduce the possibility of any leakages. Information relating to this will be included in the planning application.


There is some noise from the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) parts of the battery systems, however, this noise reduces the further away from the batteries the receptor is. Given the distance to the nearest properties, we do not anticipate there will be any noise impacts on them. A full Noise Assessment will be provided as part of the planning application.


The battery units are charged when the solar park is producing more electricity than it is allowed to export, this energy is then released to the local electrical distribution network during times of high demand to smooth the output from the solar development. The batteries can also import electricity from the local electrical distribution network when there is excess electricity, again releasing it during times of high demand.

The batteries proposed at the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park would likely be lithium-ion batteries.

Yes, this is a common practice which assists in smoothing the output from the solar park as well as the electricity grid. Battery storage projects are now common developments in their own right. They can also provide services such as frequency and voltage control, which is useful for the grid.


Environmental

No – solar panels work really well with local ecology. Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park will result in a substantial net gain in biodiversity, through various ecological enhancements, such as hedgerow and tree planting. In addition, the soil under the panels will be left fallow, thereby increasing its organic carbon content.


The site operator would be responsible for the management and maintenance of these areas, rather than the local community. There may be opportunities for local businesses to play a part in the maintenance of the site.


During the operational period, there will be some noise from the solar inverters, and from the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in the battery systems. It is important to note that there are strict noise levels that we must adhere to. In addition, noise from equipment dissipates with distance, therefore, given the site’s distance from nearby properties, we are not anticipating any noise impacts. A detailed Noise Assessment will be submitted as part of the planning application.


Community

The community benefit fund would consist of £500 per MW per annum. The current proposed solar export capacity of the Temple Oaks Renewable Energy Park is 240MW, so the community benefit fund would amount to £120,000 each year.


The goals of the community funding are to help support and realise community-identified initiatives that will strengthen the local fabric and assist in achieving the community’s net zero goals. In addition, we will provide assistance to local groups in seeking grant funding from other sources with our contribution underpinning the fundraising effort.

The distribution of the community benefit fund is still to be decided. Given there are several different communities who could benefit from the project’s community benefit fund, we are considering creating a ‘Community Benefit Panel’. This panel would consist of one or two representatives from each local community and would be chaired by our community engagement team.


We are collating the comments received to date to understand how the future community benefit fund could be best used. If you have any thoughts or ideas please email us.


Miscellaneous Questions

We have been working since 2003 to create locally supported renewable energy parks in the UK – combining solar, wind, and batteries to maximise renewable electricity generation and, at the same time, creating local hubs to help communities on a path to net zero.


We currently have a portfolio of projects at various stages of the development process, throughout the UK. Take a look at our website for further information.

One of Ridge Clean Energy’s main owners also owns one of the largest privately held companies in the US, with an annual turnover of more than $2 Billion. Ridge, therefore, has access to more than enough funding required to develop the project. Additionally, the project will be held in a separate special purpose vehicle. However unlikely, if something did happen to Ridge, the project would be a valuable asset that, once built, would continue to generate and sell electricity and therefore, would be financially viable. Operation of the project would comply with the planning conditions, for example, relating to the environmental management and decommissioning of the site.

Please note that any comments sent via the channels outlined above does not constitute a formal representation to The Planning Inspectorate (PINS). There will be an opportunity to submit formal representations to PINS at a later stage in the process.

  Comments

Providing comments or requesting a call back from a member of the project team using the forms below.

  Email

Email us a comment or enquiry via the following email address templeoaks@theridgegroup.com.

  Post

Or write to: Ridge Clean Energy, Noah's Ark, Market Street, Charlbury, OX7 3PL.

  Get In Touch