Safety fears over Chickerell solar farm and battery store plan

Weymouth Civic Society has raised concerns about potential risk to the community after plans were submitted for a large solar energy plant north of Chickerell.

The society said it is “well aware” of the climate emergency and is fully supportive of renewable energy development – but has “severe” concerns about the scale of the proposed plant.

As reported, Statera Energy wants to build a massive £300 million solar farm and battery storage facility covering 1,300 acres between Buckland Ripers and Friar Waddon – equivalent to more than 950 average-size football pitches. 

The developer claims the scheme will help Dorset meet national targets for energy supply and low-carbon energy development – however concerns have been raised by residents who say it will “blight the countryside” by ‘turning it black’ with panels.

Weymouth Civic Society has not yet taken a position on the proposals, but believes more work needs to be done to mitigate risks.

Dr Keith Holdaway, chairman of Weymouth Civic Society, said: “Because the proposed schemes are so large, they pose major risks to people living nearby and will have considerable impact during construction; whilst operating, and when decommissioned at the end of their design life.

“The impact of more than 3,000 lorry movements passing through residential areas, down a tortuous, narrow road with no pavements, must be assessed and mitigations demanded.”

The society is also “extremely concerned” about potential fire risk, as there have been ‘huge’ battery explosions and fires elsewhere – including at a much smaller scheme in Liverpool, as well as further afield in Arizona and China. 

Explosions were caused by a build-up of flammable gases after fire broke out – which in Liverpool saw an explosion happen before firefighters arrived – however those in Arizona and China were not so lucky and saw people injured during the blasts.

It comes after a bill was presented to Parliament in September 2022, when concerns were raised over the safety of battery storage schemes.

During the reading, the house heard how “the only way to stop a battery fire is to cool it down with a constant stream of water and wait for the fire to go out, which might take days, creating huge quantities of water containing highly corrosive hydrofluoric acid and copper oxide—by-products of battery fires.”

Concerns were raised that this could result in toxic chemicals seeping into watercourses, causing “immense environmental damage.”

Weymouth Civic Society is now calling on Dorset Council to insist on a full Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) is carried out by an independent expert consultancy at the developer’s cost.

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