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World’s largest solar farm could cause explosion on scale of small nuclear bomb, residents complain

May 11, 2020

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Philip Bratby

 The dead tree press has finally caught up with the story I ran in March:


Building the world’s largest solar farm in a picturesque Kent village could cause an explosion on the scale of a small nuclear bomb, residents have complained.

Developers want to erect up to one million solar panels the height of a double-decker bus on 900 acres of farmland, the equivalent of 600 football pitches, at Cleve Hill near Faversham at a cost of £450m.

They would have the capacity to power more than 90,000 homes using energy from what would be the biggest battery storage facility in the world – and three times bigger than the lithium-ion battery built by Elon Musk, the Tesla tycoon, in South Australia.

But thousands of campaigners say the battery facility, which would cover 25 acres, is unsafe and their idyllic village would be decimated if there was a battery fire which could not be controlled.

Lithium-based batteries are filled with a highly flammable electrolyte which, if it catches fire, can ignite combustible material nearby.

These fires have "an explosive energy equivalent to a small nuclear bomb and the potential to spread lethal gases", the Save Graveney Marshes campaign website claims.

Richard Knox-Johnston, vice president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Kent, told The Sunday Telegraph: "The battery storage envisaged has caused fires and explosions around the world and CPRE is concerned that this application could be approved without any safety consideration being taken into account.

"The size of this storage is five times the current largest similar battery storage in the world and poses unacceptable risks. It is equivalent to 602 tons of TNT, which is 1/20th of the TNT equivalent of the Hiroshima atom bomb."

Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said the scale of the development would have a "devastating" impact on the lands which inspired Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe.

"We’re not talking about a few fields – this would destroy an entire landscape," she said. "I want to see us reach net-zero by 2050, but this should not come at any cost."

Professor Sir David Melville, from the Faversham Society, added: "It’s only a mile away from the local primary school and a couple of miles away from Faversham. This is far too big a risk to take at the level that we currently know about these batteries and their safety, and we haven’t had the reassurances that we need from the government." 

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, is due to make a decision on the development by May 28.

  1. jack broughton permalink
    May 11, 2020 10:53 am

    If they’d applied for this “oop north” or in Wales it would have gone ahead already ……pity about the lower sunshine hours.

    Net zero = importing all our goods from countries that don’t worry about emissions (i.e. off-shoring all of our CO2): really totally stupid!

    • Sheri permalink
      May 11, 2020 1:02 pm

      Off-shoring is a win-win for the Greens. They can lie about their CO2 output and destroy huge environmental areas with the mining and refining of the materials for these panels. If anything causes a sixth extinction event, it will be the Greens and their determination to kill off most of the human beings on the planet, no matter what else goes with the humans. It’s not about saving the planet, it’s being king of the hill, emperor gods. So it kills millions of species. As long as those worthless annoying humans go with them…..

    • tonyb permalink
      May 11, 2020 5:07 pm


      It is little known that this site has twice as much daytime sunlight as anywhere else in Britain and what more has 6 hours of sunshine every night as well. All the rare earths needed are available on site. Sorry, can’t keep this up. Its a mad idea.

      It would be very interesting to see a proper environmental audit taking into account all the resources needed to build, maintain and eventually dispose of this site.

    • Jonathan Scott permalink
      May 11, 2020 5:30 pm

      More stupid is doing anything but celebrating our good luck to be putting more CO2 into the atmosphere!

  2. May 11, 2020 10:57 am

    Surely it is worth destroying Kent in order to save the planet.

    Well that seems to be the logical outcome of the government’s insane ‘net zero by 2050’ and renewable energy policies.

    • Steve permalink
      May 11, 2020 3:50 pm

      Oh dear. Alok Sharma is the twerp who doesn’t answer the question and then tells us to do what the government has decided.

    • Bertie permalink
      May 11, 2020 11:11 pm

      A not dissimilar policy to one by which you destroy a country’s total economy with a draconian scheme to contain a virus. A virus that is not as virulent as is claimed by alarmists. Oh, wait, where have I heard that term used before?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 12, 2020 9:34 am

        Or to still be using an influenza plan when you have a SARS epidemic, and with a clueless lying buffoon in charge, no idea how to take the correct action.

  3. mikewaite permalink
    May 11, 2020 11:21 am

    “Vuk” on WUWT has pointed out a recent Telegraph article about Musk applying to become a UK electricity provider
    Is this part of the business plan for this project?

  4. May 11, 2020 11:57 am

    You can say “Bye-Bye Birdie(s)” in that region also. Birds flying over or 2 close just burst into flame and plummet solar panelward.

    • May 11, 2020 11:57 am

      That would be “too” and not “2”.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 11, 2020 2:37 pm

      Slight confusion with solar concentrators I think!

  5. Geoff B permalink
    May 11, 2020 12:16 pm

    I saw the article in the Telegraph this morning, no comments though. I did a quick back of an envelope calculation and it became obvious that this is a real crazy idea, but with the rates that National Grid are prepared to pay “peaker” battery sources to get them out of the “rate of frequency change” (ROFC) problems that they have with grid stability, then you can get a pretty good rate of return. The firm that own the Tesla battery in Australia put out an investment document which is detailed in this article.
    The battery cost USdollar 66 million and is on track to make USD 20 million in a year..30% Return on capital.
    However if you are trying to reduce total carbon footprint and calculate how much is going to be released making the solar panels in China and mining all the Lithium, Cobalt for the battery compared to the amount of electricity that is going to be generated in super sunny Faversham, then I suspect that it will never be carbon neutral.
    I have seen the mammoth arrays of solar panels in USA in Nevada and in the Mojave Desert lots of sunshine and few clouds (clue thats why its a desert) …could make carbon neutral. In England forget it.
    As an aside last time I was on a train (Christmas) I noticed loads of fields covered in solar panels around York and I could not help smiling at the futility of putting a solar farm in Yorkshire. I did some research and It seems you can get RoC payments and if a business or local council share the investment then they can get carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint and boast we are carbon neutral EVEN though the original carbon emitted in China vastly exceeds any savings, it is simply not counted. Am I right? By the way I do not believe carbon dioxide in any way causes any problem, but if the green loonies are always banging on about carbon reduction being essential why are they not protesting…I do know the answer to my own question….They are thick easily led idiots.

  6. May 11, 2020 12:21 pm

    I can’t begin to comment on the technical issues and terrifying dangers of this proposal mentioned in the previous post but having just had a quick skim down the scoping report it looks all too similar in many ways to those I read on windfarms.
    One of my pet hates is the use of the word receptors when they mean people, individuals, human beings. Settlements means villages or towns, where people live. Wild life surveys are too often carried out at time when they know protected species will not be around. Mitigation is a favourite term of re-assurance. Desktop surveys – useless. RSPB repeat that climate change is the biggest threat to birds; I imagine the birds would prefer that to being fried on solar panels. The sheer length of this will put off many from reading the detail, as it did me, and I can’t imagine any minister or advisers even beginning to study it; not that they would understand if they did.

  7. Pat Swords permalink
    May 11, 2020 12:28 pm

    The EU produces a report on energy prices every five years, last one in Jan 2019:

    Last year of ‘full data’ is 2016; circa €400 billion bill for energy sources, €212 billion being imported fossil fuels, plus an additional tax squeeze of €280 billion. €76 billion in subsidies for renewable sector equating to €208 million per day or €150 from each citizen. €48 billion paid direct to wind and solar generators on top of market price for 13% of EU’s electricity. Market price plus tax paid to gas and solid fuel generators for 41% of electricity, whose fuel costs were same €48 billion.

    Note: €28 billion is a lot of money paid in 2016 as a subsidy to solar operators for less than 4% of EU’s electricity.

    An investment of a trillion Euros has occurred in the EU on wind turbines and solar panels.
    The Irish grid, on an isolated island, is a small microcosm of those in the EU. Of its nineteen power stations, the oldest and largest is coal fired and to meet EU renewable targets in the period 2012 to 2018, half its output was ‘replaced’ by the output from 1,100 new wind turbines, each costing €4 million to install.

    Electricity generation, in modern Irish gas turbine power plants, emits 40% the CO2 arising from generation with more difficult to combust carbonaceous coal. In 2012, gas generated half of Irish electricity, as it did again in 2018, but this time with a significantly higher gas consumption. When your car comes off the motorway and goes into ‘stop start’ urban driving it burns more fuel, just like power plants forced into such operation, as more and more intermittent wind energy pours on and off the grid.

    The extra gas combusted was well capable of supplying Ireland with 4% of our electricity. Simply switching this coal generation to natural gas and running Irish plants efficiently could have realised over 70% of the emissions savings claimed for renewables. In fact, this is what the USA did in the period 2008 to 2017 and obtained a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions from their power generation sector.

    If instead of spending a trillion Euros on wind turbines and PV solar panels, a budget of €10 million was provided each day to sprinkle around the EU like ‘pixie dust’ for the ‘common good’, the trillion would run out in 274 years. Equally, it would have paid the majority of the EU’s total food and drink bill in 2018 of €1.1 trillion. Instead, we got EU power sector emissions to decrease 28% in the period 2008 to 2018.

  8. Mad Mike permalink
    May 11, 2020 12:41 pm

    Here is the Faversham Society submission against the scheme. They seem to have done their homework. Can we give then any other information to help them?

  9. HotScot permalink
    May 11, 2020 12:49 pm

    This is just appalling. Wanton destruction of beautiful countryside. The greens scream about declining bee populations. What do they expect when habitats are decimated by something like this!

    • Sheri permalink
      May 11, 2020 1:08 pm

      What do they expect? To blame anything but the habitat destruction they so love. And they will get away with it too. They effectively destroyed all herbicides, driving up the cost of producing food, leading to starving out the pesky humans. Did by blaming the herbicide for the dead bees. Since most people have zero concern for the truth and the thought patterns of a gerbil, at best, they don’t care what’s happening now. They might care later, but they did lock themselves into their homes for months, just upon command. No force needed. So it’s unlikely they’ll complain when the Greens kill the wildlife, insects and destroy the food sources, even when they are starving. I don’t know how humans got so apathetic and ignorant, but they most certainly did.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        May 11, 2020 2:35 pm

        Banned insecticide – neonics – for bee decline? But also herbicide by false links to cancer – which fell apart, so used some general damage to the eco-system/insect decline BS.

        Damage to the eco-system? If that solar farm isn’t a visual scar and an enormous ecological crime, I don’t know what is.

  10. May 11, 2020 1:16 pm

    “I want to see us reach net-zero by 2050, but this should not come at any cost.”

    Then you should be careful what you wish for, dear. Check your electricity charges too.

  11. saparonia permalink
    May 11, 2020 1:52 pm

    We desperately need to re-open the pits.

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      May 11, 2020 6:06 pm

      Too expensive.
      Get hydraulic fracturing for gas.

      • Paul H permalink
        May 12, 2020 12:29 am

        Abso flipping lutely. Why Cuadrilla had to shut down along the road from us I’ll never know.

  12. V Crichton permalink
    May 11, 2020 2:02 pm

    Solar and wind energy unbalance the National Grid and so leads to power cuts. More and more of this energy will leave Britain with the most unreliable electricity in the world – look at South Australia – they never know when they are going to lose their electricity as they have so much wind and solar and have blown up they coal mines. MADNESS !

  13. David O'Neill permalink
    May 11, 2020 2:11 pm

    Such an explosion would mean none of the battery containers would escape. Yet again I see no one wants to mention the potential for a gas/chemical cloud descending on what ever population is down wind. In loose terms this should be regarded as between one and ten tonnes of Hydrogen Fluoride per 50 MWh of storage, not counting other toxic chemicals.

    During the cold war era, the Government of the United States of America, carried out nuclear weapons testing at a site in the Nevada Desert. In the summer of 1986 that same site was used for a different test. This test was carried out by a highly accredited organisation known as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The leading scientist involved in this test was Dr Ronald Koopman.

    A tanker lorry was loaded with 5000 US gallons of Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) and taken to the test site. Remotely controlled valves were opened and 1000 gallons (about 3.8 metric tonnes) was released. There was a prevailing wind of about 5 metres per second.

    Video of that first test shows a white cloud moving quickly along the desert floor. None of the HF was collected as a liquid. It all went downwind. This is why the valve was shut off early.
    Sensors detected potentially lethal concentrations of HF nearly two miles downwind of the tanker truck.

    Levels of the chemical were measured well above 30 parts per million, which is immediately
    dangerous to life or health.

    I will leave the effects of it up to your imagination.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 11, 2020 4:48 pm

      Hydrogen fluoride is a very dangerous and toxic acid. Vapors can ‘burn’ your skin and eyes. Laboratories that use it to dissolve silicate minerals require safety goggles. The liquid can turn calcium carbonate into insoluble CaF2… fluorite!

      • Adam Gallon permalink
        May 11, 2020 6:09 pm

        Yep, Hydrogen fluoride, is produced by reacting Calcium fluoride, with concentrated Sulphuric acid. Fluorite’s an inert mineral. Very pretty in its Blue John form too.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        May 11, 2020 8:16 pm

        “Hydrogen fluoride is a very dangerous and toxic acid”

        Reminds me of the old joke: “Scientists have perfected an acid which will eat through anything. Now they are desperately trying to find something to keep it in”…

  14. le goof permalink
    May 11, 2020 2:33 pm

    Cover the roofs of all buildings in all cities with solar panels. Equivalent areas to Cleve Hill near Faversham. No new transmission lines required. Reduces heat island effect. Better yet, simply roof over entire cites. Except for the occasional park. Residents rarely, if ever, see direct sunshine.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 11, 2020 2:48 pm

      You would probably still need to upgrade the rest of the grid – I doubt it is based on every property pulling (or pushing) 5kw+ at the same time, and the peaky delivery would destabilize the grid, and they deliver next to nothing in the UK for 2-3 months a year – the sun is too low/weak.

      You also lose the efficiency of scale, every property is different and needs tailored fitting, and a lot of the roofs won’t face the right way or be open to the sun.

      And you still can’t get away from the fact it’s dubious if solar PV is actually net beneficial to the environment anyway – probably borderline (of course the greens dismiss that as a lie and have creative – half blind – accountants).

  15. David permalink
    May 11, 2020 2:33 pm

    This is a lovely area. One needs to walk along the Thames path to understand and appreciate it. I doubt whether any of the politicians or anybody else who has any power in this has ever walked even 50 yards along it. They maybe look at the 1;25000 ordnance survey and see a lovely blank space about eight inches long and think ‘nobody here. we’ll get away with this’.!

  16. May 11, 2020 3:04 pm

    A real Conservative government would stop the huge subsidies for this sort of nonsense near 51 degrees North. Pity we only have a socialist ragbag. The battery will only work for a few minutes, and it is asynchronous. Consumer costs for electricity would be enormous. Every day it seems the govt. becomes more stupid.

  17. Cameron Kuhns permalink
    May 11, 2020 3:48 pm

    They should go nuclear if they want net zero.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 11, 2020 4:55 pm

      Net-zero means lowering emissions to zero plus removal of CO2 from the air and permanent storage. Nuclear cannot do that, nor can solar or wind. They will, however, be needed to support industrial CCS technology without carbon. The real problem is the amount of CO2 required to affect the climate is much too large…hundreds of billions of tons.

      What is needed is some awareness by those who insist it is needed to save the planet.

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        May 11, 2020 6:26 pm

        Au contraire, mon ami, our French friends at EDF would like to build a new Chinese designed nuke only about 50 miles away by crow at Bradwell. It is the only technology that could meet your criterion of removing dangerous CO2 since it doesn’t emit any and the solar farm would be made utterly redundant. The area at Cleve Hill could then be planted with reeds or anything that could be harvested, taken to Drax and burnt where the CO2 emitted doesn’t count! Job done, and no need for batteries since the reeds store the solar energy until needed for free.

        It is no less nonsensical than emitting loads of CO2 and other (real) nasties in China to make the panels and batteries, then emitting more CO2 in transporting them here to make a bit of CO2 free leccy.

  18. David permalink
    May 11, 2020 4:26 pm

    I wondered why these panels have to be 15ft up in the air.Then I worked out that as they are nearer the sun they will generate about 10 watts more than if on the ground. Obviously someone has done their sums!

    • May 11, 2020 7:27 pm

      They’re expecting 15ft of sea level rise!!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      May 11, 2020 8:19 pm

      “I wondered why these panels have to be 15ft up in the air”

      To keep them clear of all the sheep who will be grazing underneath….allegedly!

  19. May 11, 2020 4:43 pm

    ‘capacity to power more than 90000 homes’

    And a car has the capacity to do a lot more miles per gallon than it does do in the real world. In winter solar panels offer very little in the UK for obvious reasons. Storage only works if there’s something to store, and even then not for very long.

  20. Broadlands permalink
    May 11, 2020 5:02 pm

    The unintended consequences of solar panel farming at these large scales is the subsequent problem of disposal of inefficient, outmoded or broken panels. Like millions of used ICE vehicles, where do you put them? Kick them down the road..into the oceans?

  21. May 11, 2020 5:31 pm

    “”We’re not talking about a few fields – this would destroy an entire landscape,” she said. “I want to see us reach net-zero by 2050, but this should not come at any cost.”

    Typical MP – votes for net zero then objects when the consequences affect them personally.

  22. Jonathan Scott permalink
    May 11, 2020 6:37 pm

    Destroying nature to save the planet? Did we not learn that the difference between child making a decision and an adult is that the adult considers all options and consequences where as the child says “I will do anything as long as I get sweeties”? I would like to suggest that that is the level of sophistication which has gone into dreaming up this dystopian nightmare. The ONLY consideration for it has been the size of the subsidies=sweeties. This should be a wakeup call to you all regarding how morally bankrupt the whole climatescam is. The perversion that walks hand in hand with the untroubled by science climatageddonists. These are chancers, weasels and maggots who understand like the windfarmists and their massive concrete plinths and bird chopping blades and pathetic penny packets of generated energy that no one actually cares about anything bad you do against nature or our senses as long as you attach yourself to the green slime band waggon. They see the perfect opportunity to make easy money when public money is thrown at them by wilfully incompetent virtue signalling politicians. Why work for a living when you can be paid hansomely come rain, come shine for putting up a monstrosity in the name of GWEEN?? A point to note. It is clear that for what they are worth Solar Farms are not worth the investment money ( including the subsidies) in the USA above around 37-38degrees North. Will someone therefore please explain to me what magic happens with the economics and physics to excuse the existence of ANY solar farm in the UK, certainly this blot on the landscape at 51degrees North??? I say this already being familiar with two outrageously located subsidy milk cows at 54degN in Lancashire and even further north than that in Co Durham. I have never ever seen either on a sunny say which (must happen) but neither county is renowned for any sunlight records…occasionally but I have seen them both plenty of time in drissel with cloud base around 500feet. Is there ANYTHING at all which adds up in the shop window of the climatearmageddon fantasists? As a final point, there is nothing more green than CO2 because without CO2 there would be no green, but only brown.

  23. May 11, 2020 6:46 pm

    Don’t know exactly where that is, but in looking at Google Earth, much of that land near the water is only 3-6 feet above sea level. Hee hee.

  24. Gamecock permalink
    May 11, 2020 7:20 pm

    Isn’t Cleve Hill in a biological Site of Scientific Special Interest?

  25. May 11, 2020 7:29 pm

    Why would the gov’t approve what is in effect a parasite attached to the grid, only existing because of insecurity caused by the attachment of earlier parasites….?

  26. May 11, 2020 10:04 pm

    Meanwhile, the technically illiterate M.P. rabbits on about “net zero carbon”, not realising that that is what she is composed of and that it is CO2 which keeps us all alive!

  27. May 11, 2020 11:35 pm

    What a beauty. Thats the kind of thing that I want in the backyard of every green maniac. And every politician that supports those schemes. But I guess they would rather have their residences at luxury islands without any windmill or solar panel. They seem to appreciate real nature than those monsters. And they sure don’t want to be in the way of such a battery when it goes apeshit.

  28. May 12, 2020 2:52 am

    Batteries are a hazard but so are the solar panels – which cannot be turned off as long as the sun is shining, they produce electricity – so when they catch fire, putting them out with water is a huge hazard.
    London has c. 3.5 million homes, which would need 40 Cleve Hill power stations and would cover over 23,000 football fields

  29. May 12, 2020 4:19 am

    Batteries use lithium.
    Thermonuclear bombs use lithium.
    Therefore batteries are thermonuclear bombs.
    See, I can do environmentalist logic too! #greenhamcommon

  30. Gamecock permalink
    May 12, 2020 7:26 pm


    ‘small nuclear bomb’


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