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Finding middle ground on rural renewables

For rural and nature lobby groups, a desire show support for cleaner energy while preserving the traditional look of the countryside has sometimes been a tricky balance in Britain. The issue has normally come to a head on the issue of onshore wind farms - though perhaps some people just get off on the wrong foot with their local turbines. This has now become a point of tension around solar farms.

There has certainly been a recent spike in running local newspaper stories about local resident concerns around planned solar developments: A 54-acre plot under discussion in Harpenden among others in the pipeline in Hampshire and a 33-acre plan in Theale, Berkshire are just a couple of notable examples. Acting as the arbitrator in these debates is the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The group has come out to suggest its broad support for solar power as part of the future energy mix, offering its preferred solution as far as siting solar arrays goes: making it easier to it easier to install solar on the roofs of major commercial developments through central government incentives for landlords and loosening of planning restrictions by local authorities.

Agricultural land use in the age of reducing carbon emissions is set to be an even broader issue than where to site renewable energy, with an impact right across the globe. In particular, the food v transport fuel debate over land use in turn brings into question the kind of diets we might be looking to have in the future if we are to live more sustainably, as well as the amount of our household and industrial waste that could be converted to fuel, reducing the need for fuel crops.

It should also be noted that CPRE says that solar farms are ‘acceptable’ under certain conditions, namely avoiding the best quality land, damage to biodiversity and striving to avoid impact to views. For all the media’s attempts to show debates as poles divided, middle ground can invariably be found. There is likely to be a degree of push and pull still to come on the subject of the future of farms as drivers in the green economy.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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