We have always believed the Estate has a responsibility and role to play in the provision of sustainable clean energy for the local community and could also contribute to the Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels. This is of particular significance in the lead up to the COP26 global summit in Glasgow, in November 2021.
In 2014, the Estate brought forward a 64-acre, 14-megawatt solar park in Capel next to the London-Ashford railway line, in partnership with British Solar Renewables. The land is leased from the Estate by Cubico Sustainable Investments and the park has 72,776 panels.
Seven years since it opened, the park’s output has grown substantially from the originally anticipated 14 MW, and it now produces enough energy to power 5,200 homes a year with an average annual output of over 18MW.
In 2020, it reported its most productive year on record, generating enough electricity to power 5,746 homes in the local area.
This peaked in May 2020, with the site powering around 11,145 homes across the month. To put this figure into context, the electricity generated in May alone would be enough to boil a kettle 104,140,160 times – that’s a lot of cups of tea!
This year has been equally successful, peaking on 23rd April with the highest energy production in any 24-hour period so far in 2021- 130.9MWh was produced, supplying around 13,090 homes or 4,188,800 kettles boiled.
Harry Teacher of the Hadlow Estate said: “When the solar park was constructed in 2014, our aim was to provide a significant amount of green energy for local homes and businesses, so it is fantastic to see we are fulfilling what we set out to achieve. The sunny weather and lower air pollution levels have helped to boost the output considerably. Diversification into renewable energy has been an important aspect of our long term strategy for the Estate as we look to the future.
“We decided to install solar photovoltaic panels on many of our farm buildings, including at Hadlow Place Farm, Bank Farm Livery Stables and Little Fish Hall. Electricity from these panels runs our cold stores, the Estate and farm office, and a number of houses, including our home. Any unused energy is exported back to the grid but during peak times we use almost all of the clean energy we generate.”
As well as providing much needed green energy locally, the park and its surroundings provide a home for an abundance of wildlife, thanks to its hedges, trees and wildflower meadows. Bird and bat boxes have been installed in nearby woodland and hedgerows to provide roosting sites and nesting opportunities and are already being used.
Harry continued: “Our farm team planted over 5,000 hedgerow shrubs and 200 trees. The hedgerows which were planted to screen the site are now well established and provide habitats and food sources for a wide range of birds and animals. By linking up with existing treelines these new hedges have created valuable wildlife corridors and enhanced connectivity around and across the site – which is great for biodiversity.
“Monoculture arable crops have been replaced by grassland, including almost 10 acres of species-rich wildflower meadows full of daisies, clover and scabious and 5 acres of tussocky grass. These meadows are always teeming with insects and are carpeted with flowers in the late spring and summer.”
“In addition to the solar park, the Estate has also diversified into other renewable energy solutions, using its own timber for a small biomass district heating system at Hadlow Place Farm. The biomass boiler is fed by woodchip from the Estate’s sustainable forestry operations and provides heating and hot water to a number of buildings and houses.
“This holistic approach, of using sustainably grown timber to supply energy locally, allows us to invest back into our woodlands for the long term,” Harry said.