1. Why RAF Coltishall?

In January 2013 Norfolk County Council purchased former RAF Coltishall including the open airfield, and since then has been seeking to realize its vision for the site, including income generation, job creation and the protection of the site’s heritage assets

In October 2013, we approached Norfolk County Council to discuss the idea of a solar farm on the airbase and signed an agreement in April 2014 which would enable us to assess its suitability for a solar farm. Our conclusions were that the grassed areas between the runways would be suitable because these areas are:

  • Not visible from nearby houses;
  • Flat with no features that could cause overshadowing;
  • Screened by existing trees, former airbase operational buildings and security fencing;
  • Have good transport access.

2. How efficient is the solar farm compared to other forms of renewables?

The solar farm (both phases) will generate enough electricity to power 12-15,000 homes with a CO2 saving of nearly 20,000 tonnes per annum. 

3. Where on the airfield is the solar farm situated?

The solar farm is located on the grass areas either side of the former runway and does not require the removal of any buildings on the airbase. Whilst the solar farm is in operation, the grass areas will continue as habitat for wildlife to flourish. 

4. What happens to the electricity generated by the solar farm?

The electricity will be exported to the national grid via the local electricity distribution network.

5. When did construction begin?

Construction of the first phase started in January 2015 and was completed by the end of March 2015. The second phase started in January 2016 and should be finished by March 2016.

6. Which part of the airfield will you use to access the site for construction?

We will use the same route as we did for Phase One last year. Access into the site for construction traffic will be via the main site entrance, with the exit traffic route along a private road then along Old Norwich Road and onto the B1150.  A Construction Management Plan to minimize disturbance and disruption was agreed with the District Councils and Norfolk County Council and shared with local representatives.

7. What will the environmental impact be of the solar farm?

We carried out a number of surveys and assessments prior to submitting a planning application and before construction started last year. These included a Heritage and Conservation Area Impact Assessment, a landscape and visual impact assessment, a habitat survey, a transport assessment and a flood risk assessment.

The solar panels are mounted close to the ground and are fixed into position through piles driven into the ground. As there are no concrete foundations and little excavation is required, the long term impact of the solar farm on the environment is minimal. 

8. How long will it operate?

The solar farm will operate for 25 years at which time the land will revert to its original state or permission to extend its operation will be sought.

9. Where are the solar panels coming from?

We are sourcing them from Europe and the Far East. We are installing around 70,000 panels in the second phase of the project.

10. How does the farm connect to the grid? Has it meant the construction of new overhead power lines?

The grid connection is underground and does not involve overhead lines.

11. Would it restrict further development on the airfield?

There are some restrictions as a result of the solar farm but we see the farm as a catalyst for additional inward investment and future development of the Enterprise Park.

12. What has been the local reaction to the project?

Locally, people have either been generally supportive or ambivalent to the scheme. In 2014 a few concerns were initially expressed by local people when we held exhibitions in the area and last year during the first phase construction we received a small number of complaints from local people about the movement of HGVs to and from the site (the drivers did not follow the construction route as promised) but nothing significant in our opinion.