Plans have been lodged for a giant solar farm on fields near Barnstaple.

The site for a proposed solar farm at Litchardon Cross near Barnstaple. Picture: Aura PowerThe site for a proposed solar farm at Litchardon Cross near Barnstaple. Picture: Aura Power

Aura Power says the 61-hectare farm at Litchardon Cross will generate enough electricity to power 12,700 homes.

The company says that is approximately three quarters of the homes in Barnstaple, Fremington, Horwood, Lovacott and Newton Tracey, Instow, Tawstock and Westleigh.

It says it would save an estimated 15,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and make a substantial contribution to ‘net zero targets’.

The solar panels would cover about half of the site, but Aura Power says sheep would still be able to graze between them.

Aura Power says that wildflower meadows would be allowed to grow between the panels on the proposed solar farm at Litchardon Cross near Barnstaple.Aura Power says that wildflower meadows would be allowed to grow between the panels on the proposed solar farm at Litchardon Cross near Barnstaple.

It said it would plant new hedgerows and areas of woodland, with wildflower meadows established over time around and between the panels.

A public exhibition was held in January and was attended by around 70 people, according to Aura Power – it said as a result of feedback the design had been changed to remove panels from fields by the closest homes.

The company has promised to set up a community benefit Fund of £350 per megawatt of power generated, which it says could be £17,500 a year for the 35-year life of the facility or more than £612,000 in total.

It said £2,000 a year would be set aside for educational sessions with schools and site visits to the solar farm, with the remainder shared between the parishes of Horwood, Lovacott and Newton Tracey and Fremington, and used for social and environmental community projects.

Chris Featonby, UK development manager at Aura Power, said: “Last year the UK set a target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and solar power is one of the best ways we have of decarbonising the energy sector at a low cost.

“As the country starts to emerge from an unprecedented global health crisis, the government has pledged to ‘build back greener’ as part of its economic stimulus measures.

“Litchardon Cross solar farm can make a big contribution to local and national net zero targets as well as the local green economy.

“We know that not everyone likes the idea of change in the countryside, but this is a good site for a solar farm.

“It can be easily screened and there is already a lot of infrastructure nearby, with two wind turbines, two radio transmitter masts, an operational landfill site, electricity pylons and the A39 link road bisecting the site. And there are good opportunities for improving biodiversity on the surrounding land.”