Elon Musk is threatening to despoil the English countryside with another of his giant solar battery gimmicks. It will be the ‘biggest evah’, of course.
But the green scheme is so eco-unfriendly that even environmentalists are campaigning to have the project nixed.
As David Rose reports:
Green campaigners are fighting to block a £400 million plan to build a solar energy farm the size of 600 football pitches on marshland that provides a habitat for rare birds such as the marsh harrier.
The proposed 890-acre farm, five times as big as Britain’s largest existing one in Wiltshire, lies outside Graveney, near Faversham in Kent, along the edge of the Swale estuary, an officially designated Biodiversity Operational Area.
This is home to rare nesting birds and surrounded by protected zones for wildlife.
Because it is also a flood plain, the project’s 989,000 solar panels will be mounted on frames 12ft tall – the height of a double-decker bus.
Unlike most solar farms, Cleve Hill Solar Park’s panels will not all face south, but east and west in a continuous zig-zag.
The effect, say the scheme’s opponents, will be to turn green meadows into something resembling a colossal factory roof.
Economically and environmentally the scheme makes no sense whatsoever. Apart from ruining a huge swathe of countryside and killing or displacing all the local wildlife, it will do little for Britain’s energy needs.
The developers, a partnership between Hive Energy and Wirsol, part of a firm based in Germany, boast that with a maximum output of 350MW – seven times the size of any existing solar farm in Britain – it will ‘power over 110,00 homes’.
However, they admit it will produce power only about 11 per cent of the time. The output of the nearby Medway gas-fired power station is 735MW, but this is continuous.
If the British government has any sense it will give this green vanity project the same treatment it did to the similarly stupid Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project and pull the plug before any more taxpayers’ money is poured down the drain.
Unfortunately, though, the decision is in the hands of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark. Clark, a passionate Europhile, also happens to be the dreariest and most drippingly wet Conservative in Theresa May’s cabinet.
As Quentin Letts puts it in this must-read profile, he loves big government in all its forms.
Mr Clark is very much Secretary of State for Big Business rather than for small entrepreneurs.
He views capitalism not through the small-business lens of risk and agility but as the operation of siege-engine corporations, mighty combines crushing all obstacles in their path.
The title of his 254-page thesis in 1992? ‘The effectiveness of incentive payment systems: an empirical test of individualism as a boundary condition.’
If you think that sounds dull, you should listen to some of his parliamentary speeches. Rib-ticklers, they ain’t.
The centre-Left SDP may be long defunct but you could argue that Mr Clark has not really changed his views from the days when he worshipped Shirley Williams and Co.
He may have joined the Conservative Party in the early 1990s, once that inspirational figure John Major had become leader, but he still adheres to SDP-ish positions on big government (a fan), taxes (ooh yes) and the EU (don’t mind if I do).
Now that his friend Amber Rudd has gone, Mr Clark is probably the biggest Remainer in Theresa May’s Cabinet. But at least Amber had some sparkle. Greg is a grind.
As a member of the inner ‘war cabinet’ on Brexit, Mr Clark has argued long – and sometimes, it is said, almost tearfully – in favour of the softest of all possible Brexits.
He was the main voice calling for the now discredited ‘customs partnership’ idea which would have seen British officials collecting duties for Brussels even after we left the EU.
Just the kind of stooge, one fears, who is likely to fall hook, line and sinker for Elon Musk’s snake oil salesmanship. Musk, remember, is the man who conned the South Australian government out of a whopping $50 million. Until the happy day when Tesla finally collapses, no taxpayer can count himself safe from this man’s depredations.