2023-01 Thoughts on West Botley Solar Farm

As i expected, much local resistance to the Botley Solar farm proposal.

Admittedly, its pretty remarkable. The proposal would cover a huge swathe of land between Botley and Woodstock (see map), and according to the blurb would generate enough energy for every house in Oxfordshire.

The “anti” brigade are calling it a Solar Powerstation, evoking visions of chimneys belching smoke, giant cooling towers, furnaces burning day and night. They’re saying it will destroy the countryside. The reality is that it will be quiet and clean, with sheep grazing amongst the panels and wildlife able to live undisturbed. No ploughs destroying nests, no barren swathes of empty brown earth. Significantly less environmental damage.

The other motto is “Roofs not Fields” but here sadly the numbers just don’t add up. TLDR: on average you need 2.5x more energy than your roof can generate.

The average UK house requires around 12-15 kWh per day (a lot more if you have electric heating). The average rooftop solar system generates 4kW peak, and in winter we get on average two hours sunshine. So even with battery backup (adding £6000 to the cost), rooftop systems only generate half of what you need when you need it most. And then, factor in the move to EVs – if you do 8000 miles a year with average efficiency of 4m/kWh, you’ll need an extra 5-6kWh per day.

And factor in more home-working, meaning more computers and heating during the day. You get the idea.

Meanwhile our MP says they should build it “somewhere else”, somewhere less “picturesque”, but fails to offer any suggestion. I suspect he’d prefer a labour constituency, wales or scotland. Laughably, he says he’s listening to his constituents, which he’s studiously failed to do for the last 7 years (60% voted remain, he voted leave every time).

And anyway, personal power generation is not the way forward. There’s a reason we do it in bulk. And if not solar, then what? At current consumption, we have a few decades of oil left, but prices will continue to rise and our civilisation has ever-rising demand for energy. Personally, i think global coordination is required. The chances of that? Nil. So in the meantime, I’m all for more solar farms.

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