Planning law stops solar power plant seeing light of day

COMMERCE and Employment could have a solar power plant up and running in three months if it were not for planning laws, its minister has said.

Kevin Stewart

COMMERCE and Employment could have a solar power plant up and running in three months if it were not for planning laws, its minister has said.

Deputy Kevin Stewart, pictured, explained his department was currently working with Environment to advise it of the strategic opportunities that creating a photovoltaic panel site would have.

He had announced previously at an Institute of Directors presentation that the department had already identified a disused vinery site that could be used as a test bed solar power plant, but this change was blocked by planning laws.

‘It’s bonkers that we cannot set up a pilot project that will give a 6-7% return on capital employed because we cannot do it under the laws,’ he said at the time.

Comments for: "Planning law stops solar power plant seeing light of day"


Don't you need sun for that to work !!!!!!!!!!!!!


Not necessarily, different manufacturers produce their PV cells to use different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some of these favour the UV-end of the spectrum and thus still work when there is cloud cover.


That’s why we have laws Kev


Darn those pesky laws!!

Pepe Le Pew

If we were in a tin pot dictatorship minor inconveniences like laws that also apply to government ministers wouldn't matter.

Devil's Advocate

WTF are you on Kev? We don't need a 'test bed' solar plant here, you can find out all you need from existing solar installations here scaled up to the size of plants in Germany or elsewhere.

There are no 'strategic opportunities' for solar power here, the amount of land/roofspace in the island isn't even enough to satisfy the island's needs let alone export power at a guess. I'm all for solar power as a string to the generation bow, but it is not going to make money for the island.

As to it being bonkers that you're not allowed to make money because of the law maybe we should pass a law allowing paid killing in the island? Hitmen could kidnap their targets, bring them here to kill them and the island could take a cut. I think we should start with crazy disc jockeys first.....


I would personally favour the development of wind farms in the Little Russell area- we have an abundance of wind but a paucity of substantial solar energy. Even better would be biogas - that ghastly spectacle that barely qualifies as a fayre at Oatlands could be demolished and replaced with an irrigation tank whilst the vast open fields adjacent to that area and the greenhouses across the road ought to be designated for the cultivation of crops/plants ( I am not sure exactly which ones, but species that are adapted to living in temperate climates- though we may need ones suited for drier climates if global warming is accelerated) as the carbon dioxide they release when being burned is tantamount to that they absorb via photosynthesis, thereby restoring the dynamic equilibrium of the carbon cycle.

Nevertheless, the ultimate question is whether we ought to remove the issue at source or merely counterpoise it.

Yvonne Burford

Ed, the Little Russel would be a very bad place for a windfarm, not least because turbines need a clean (not turbulent) flow of air and sticking them inbetween Guernsey and Herm and Sark would guarantee turbulence. They would likely also present a hazard to boats and aircraft.


No good placing them in the States chamber then, the swirling vorticies of hot air have never been known to generate anything. Perhaps a methane digester would work though.

vic gamble

Ed...I'd counterpoise it...seems a much easier word to that something to do with juggling (words?)

vic gamble

...Kev needs a PR man...he never shows his best side to the camera...


that's why he always had a good face for radio, Vic.

Shame he didn't stay there.


Since when do States owned projects not get the necessary approvals, planning or otherwise.

More of the worst eyesores on the island belong to the States.

And if they still are worried about breaking any laws.... Just stick the solar panels and, for good measure, a few dozen windmills on Brecqhou and run cables under the sea to Guernsey.


Nothing will change! The environment laws prevent investment in any new technology.


The laws make it easier for Environment to say no,no,no as there is less work involved. It looks like they don't want new initiatives or ideas which might create more work for the department. They say no to Solar plant yet anyone can drive all day long in a big thirsty car, (if they wanted) releasing carbon monoxide, benzene and other carcinogens that cause respiratory disorders. Environment should be more affirmative with their policies when it comes to renewable energy and reducing emissions.


Starting to get the hang of it now Kev ?

Civil Servants 26 Deputies 0

All to play for - literally.


And what's your contribution to the betterment of the island Devil's advocate as you seem to relish spitting venom on the minister or perhaps it's supposed to be humorous. Unless you're an expert in photovoltaics what you are saying is a load of rubbish because you're trying to pre-empt the situation and dismiss it before the idea even gets tested. At least Mr Stewart is coming up with ideas which may or may not see the light of day. It can't be easy getting stonewalled by Environment who don't like fresh ideas or new thinking so it seems.

Devil's Advocate

There is absolutely no reason to test any PV here. Anyone can go to someone who has them already in Guern to find out how much power they generated last year for the size of install they have (panel area). You then multiply that up by the size of the potential installation to find out the total output likely. It is not like we are doing something that's never been done anywhere else in the world is it?!

If the return is as good as he states why hasn't it been done already, or at least tried (permission applied for)?

The states would be better off subsidising private installs which can go on existing properties whose roof area is effectively doing nothing than developing dead greenhouse land under the pretence of tidying it up.


Perhaps the Environment Board could waive their planning fees with regard to applications for Solar panels etc?

That would be a start and there would then be no addional cost to the taxpayer?

Yvonne Burford


The current fee for an application for a complete solar panel installation (assuming it is not already exempt) is £50. Given that a PV system may well cost upwards of £5000 I do not believe the fee is acting as a deterrent. However it does pay towards the cost of staff time in processing the application, which of course has to be borne by someone.


Well said Ernie, I think we should cut Kevin some slack on this one because he may be onto something and at least he is coming up with a few dynamic new ideas.

What I don't understand and perhaps Yvonne Burford can enlighten us as a member of environment, is why can't we bring in an IMMEDIATE change to the planning laws to get this solar park up and running NOW?

I heard Tony Spruce on the radio blathering on about having to wait two years until the outcome of the next planning review but I really did expect more of this new States. Spruce is definitely showing himself as old school stifled by bureaucracy and negative thinking but Yvonne you are new school, the new breed of deputy who has promised to get things done. Can we have some action on this please?

Yvonne Burford

The development plans are currently in the process of being reviewed and Commerce and Employment will have been consulted on that process.

It is more important to get things done correctly than to get things done immediately in my view and I am sure if we simply made immediate changes to planning laws at a whim to accommodate private developers there would be a public outcry.

I would speculate that this proposal from Kevin Stewart is for a private developer. I am hugely supportive of both renewable energy and energy security, but if it has been correctly reported that six acres of land is needed for a 1 MWp installation, then the output would be about 0.9 GWh per annum. This is less than one quarter of one percent of our annual consumption. Education about energy saving measures could reduce our consumption by far more than this at a fraction of the cost.

We may well need open land for food growing in the near future. A less visually obtrusive way forward would be to put PV on south facing warehouse or commercial building roofs.


A fair enough response Yvonne. It's just that the States - the 'old' States in particular - is renowned for coming up with reasons why progressive things should not happen. In the words of a very good song on the radio now they do not know how to 'accentuate the positive'.


I agree that we should not make immediate decisions, and I think that a solar farm is a waste of time but this raises questions again about environment and their inflexible and blinkered view of things.

We have dozens of vineries that will never again be used for growing so why not just agree a plan for compulsory purchase and use the space for business units and housing. This would help many people out and rid the island of eyesores and hazards in one fell swoop.


Solar cell is a fast moving technology, a Swiss company recently set a record conversion for sunlight to electricity over 20%, it has a future.

'Open land for food growing in future may be needed..' okay but this is the last place to put a solar installation anyway. Maybe somewhere like Spain they have plenty of space for open air installations. We should encourage use of derelict greenhouses for renewable power ie. solar PV, most of which probably belong to people with no intention of ever growing any food. The States should also introduce laws mandating minimum standards for renewable energy provision on new builds including and starting with the schools.

I agree about using commercial buildings too, there needs to be an objective, a target for x amount of renewable by year x.... from our leaders. We can talk until the cows some home..



Cultivating crops( not for biogas) has a duel purpose : They regulate the carbon cycle, thereby ensuring that global warming is not being exacerbated, and that food supplies are sufficient. Why would you want time and money invested into the installation of photovaltaic cells when you can do something that's not just more economical, but redresses (or at least tries to) two fundamental problems which are bound to be amplified ?

Then again, there's always snags; capital would have to be invested into the research and potential development of climate-resistant crops.

Yvonne Burford

Yes, six acres of land in Southern Europe would be considerably cheaper and generate considerably more electricity.


Times change, technology improves, what is relevant today is not tomorrow. Laws become outdated and get left behind by real life. Flexibility of mind is what is needed. Because what is definite today may not be tomorrow.

Island Wide Voting


EXACTLY.Perhaps that paragraph should be used as the header on every Billet or at least painted on the wall in Environment's boardroom

Why is it necessary to set planning rules in stone for what is it ? .. up to twenty years?

Who knew 3 / 4 years ago that LVCR would disappear and leave some rather large units empty because their use category is set in stone ?

By all means retain Environment's giant book of rules but for goodness sake introduce a section which allows for FLEXIBILITY ( perhaps with the caveat that a majority of the Assembly must agree)for those times when a little bit of common sense is so obviously required for the good of the island


if we could harness the hot air that comes out the states chamber during states meetings the problem would be solved.


It might help if the laws even allowed us to install on our own properties, a small windmill generating electricity for personal use, but that would cause complaints from our nearest neighbours.Even solar panels have been described by some as 'ugly'.

Island Wide Voting


I seem to remember that a recent Environment Minister applied for such a windmill

He finally obtained permission ... after about eighteen months!

That,dear leaders,just serves to highlight the absolute mind bending hebetude inherent in anything the States get themselves involved in



Have you been stealing glimpses at Ed's thesaurus IWV?

Island Wide Voting

I had originally put ' sluggishness'in but that would only have led to some rude comparisons from some of TIG's less erudite contributors


Dear Kevin, welcome to Guernsey, the island where planning rules rather than elementary good sense. You are ecountering exactly the kind of problems that all developers face wheb they attempt to build homes. Just consider youself lucky that Heritage isn't on you back insisting on the restoration of antique wooden glass houses and anthracite furnaces!


Biogas anyone ? We need to have that abomination of a fayre at Oatlands eliminated to create space for something that will have more advantageous consequences. Plant material has three features that make it even more favourable than solar power devices : aesthetic appeal, ecologically-friendly (with concern to both climate change AND existing biodiversity) and inexpensive.

However, we could still install a windfarm adjacent to the States building as we would be able to convert the 'hot air' that pervades that environment into wise thought- their enhanced ability to ratiocinate will enable them to acknowledge the futility of solar energy ( as a fuel in Guernsey) and value of biogas !

Yvonne Burford

Solar thermal (for hot water) and photovoltaic panels are exempt from the requirement for planning permission in many cases.

Small wind turbines have been shown to be remarkably inefficient (google Warwick Wind Trials) as they need a clean flow of air which simply does not exist around roofs.



I am aware that you are either a deputy or an individual who is standing for deputy, therefore I think my idea above would be worth using as an agenda item for States meetings. Are you in favour of a renewable energy option that has aesthetic, ecological and economical benefits ?


'I am aware that you are either a deputy or an individual who is standing for deputy...'

Not very 'aware' at all, then, Ed.


That's NO indicator that the validity of the rest of what I say falls short. At least I knew, unlike some other youths, that this individual had some connection with the domestic government.

Anyway, the important thing is the content of my post- I hope that Burford takes time to peruse it as it may be worth discussing at the next meeting...


I am so sorry ! I inadvertently called you 'Burford' because I had just been studying a contemporary drama text and I had been referring to the characters by their surnames and thus I forgot to switch to an alternative manner of address. Sorry, I meant Yvonne.

Yvonne Burford


We don't have the land area required for biogas (or biomass) from crops. However as part of the waste strategy, food waste will be collected. This will be dealt with by either in-vessel composting or anaerobic digestion. If it is the latter, then biogas will be produced and, after the parasitic load is accounted for, could produce electricity.



There's a vast expanse of land neighbouring Oatlands- we'll just have to have the annual equestrian event relocated elsewhere and inform Kaufman Kent that he can't expand his abomination of a fayre onto it as its going to be appropriated for something of long-term avail.

I think a field of crops would possess greater aesthetic appeal than just open land constituting little tall vegetation. The greenhouse site adjacent to the fields too could be used- we just need to rid it of glass, or, even better construct fresh greenhouses there and on the site where the greenhouses have just been demolished.

Perhaps an even better move would be to completely eliminate that so-called 'fayre', replace it with an irrigation facility (I understand that Oatlands already has a tap or several taps) and carry out a carbon sequestration programme,namely afforestation, in the neighbouring fields, though the irrigation method may lack efficiency.

Then again, is it better to offset existing emissions or remove them at source ?

vic gamble

Ed, have you ever considered entering one of your threads for publication in Private Eye's "Pseud's Corner" ???


When they expand PE to the size of the Telegraph there'll be just about enough room to squeeze in Ed's first paragraph, vic.

Thank god he's not mine. Having him lecturing me for hours from the other side of the family dinner table as to the pros and cons of whether he wants carrots is a fate too horrible to contemplate.


The new GHA houses have solar panels and people I know that have them say that they have cut their electric bills to virtually nothing. We should have been given incentives years ago to encourage more take up of solar panels. Blimey they have been round for donkeys years we should know how much you get out of them. I said before, instead of paying for a new generator the money should have been used to make everyone more self sufficent, and that would reduce the load needed, simples!

Guern abroad


Now get solar panels installed on every large States roof, there are so many of these.

Post Office, schools, etc. etc. There are so many large power generating States roofs available around the Island that I think Kev is barking up the wrong tree. Even if the energy was used directly for each facility where the panels were installed that is a start.

Work with what you have and get on with it.

I think ideas like Kev's above are ill thought through and a bit of an ego massage. The data is already avilable on the Island to compute from now go do some real work and calculate how much power would be available for what outlay on the existing sqm2 States owned roof areas.


What was the reason given as a refusal for planning permission for many,many years? "Incongruous". Now where has that gone? The I.D.C. was a system which worked very well in my opinion with 12 men (and women) good and true, who visited every site and met to discuss the merits or otherwise of each planning application,nor did we have to wait two months for a decision.

Now,it's down to a small team of civil servants who control all the say,having been given this power by our trusted States.

I would say,over time, this has proved to be a backward move.


I agree with Kevin, it is wrong that outdated laws should hold back groundbreaking research.

"Disused vinery site" = Strawberry farm? Would make sense, the infrastructure is there and old metal greenhouses once shored up and suitably rewired would be an ideal base.

Also it would be interesting to see if the public would support a referendum on the planning laws being revamped to favour renewable energy..


What about the idea of "solar trees".. essentially make some very thin metal poles and about 25 feet or so up, have a collection of moveable (with stepper motors) lightweight flexible panels that track the Sun.

Plus they can be used on existing land, people don't tend to complain about trees as much and they can be painted green without affecting the (IR light) sensitive panels.

For additional earth friendly points, use recycled motors and plastic from the dead printer mountain at Longue Hougue and have the local jobless build them for a reasonable amount per hour as it is skilled labour!



You have varying methods that you wish to employ to reduce carbon dioxide, gut you share the same broad idea as I. Wonder whether anybody rake is willing to appropriate existing unused land in order to mitigate climate change ? ...


Sorry, I meant else instead of rake.


....unused vinery sites should be turned back into green land and used for grazing rainbow horses, the breeding and training of which over here will save us all....


So said Zebadee!