ONE of Yeovil’s main employers could soon power more of its buildings through renewable energy if plans for a new solar farm are approved.

Conrad Energy (Developments) II Ltd. has applied to construct a solar farm south of Camp Road in West Coker, on land north of the local doctors’ surgery.

If approved, the solar farm would provide power direct to Leonardo’s factory on Lysander Road for the next four decades, further consolidating the company’s Somerset base.

Somerset Council is expected to make a decision on the proposals before the end of the year.

The planned solar farm will cover an area of 16.24 hectares (just over 40 acres), with a direct underground cable connection to the Leonardo site underneath the Lysander Road roundabout.

The site will include a small battery energy storage facility, allowing excess power generated from the panels to be stored and re-utilised during times of higher demand.

The existing public right of way which runs from north to south through the middle of the site will be maintained as part of the development.

The facility is expected to be operational for 40 years (though this could be extended through subsequent planning applications) and could supply around a quarter of Leonardo’s energy needs.

A spokesman for Renplan Planning Consultants (representing the applicant) said: “The government expects each local authority to contribute to reducing overall demand for energy, and communities have an important role to play in supporting energy generation from renewable or low-carbon sources.

“The proposed solar farm will make a significant contribution towards local efforts in reducing CO2 emissions.

“The proposal would generate approximately 26 per cent of the annual energy required to operate Leonardo Helicopters’ Yeovil facility and 16 per cent of the company’s output across all UK operations, while also providing energy security for the business via storage working alongside the grid.

“The land can continue to be used for agriculture, insofar as being made available for sheep grazing. Therefore, over the temporary term of the proposal the agricultural land is not lost, and following decommissioning it can return to its favourable replenished state.”

Conrad Energy has delivered similar projects in Somerset in the last few years, securing permission in August 2022 for a battery storage facility at King’s Farm in Shearston at the southern edge of the Quantock Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

Lesley-Anne Radcliffe, who lives on East Street in West Coker, said the risks surrounding the solar farm outweighed the potential benefits to Leonardo and associated businesses.

She said: “This does not benefit the people of West Coker in any way, and the batteries pose a fire and pollution risk.

“Leonardo has plenty of roof space and car parking space to house these solar panels, but using farmland is quicker and cheaper for them. The people of West Coker deserve more consideration than this.

“We should be conserving valuable land for food production, particularly because of the war in Ukraine.

“We cannot lose any more land to solar farms in the south west and  our politicians should be actively preserving it for future generations.”

South Somerset District Council approved plans in January for a new solar farm on Pipplepen Lane in North Perrott – only a few miles from the West Coker site.

Plans for a separate solar farm on Dunsham Lane in Wayford, roughly halfway between Chard and Crewkerne, are currently out for public consultation.

Somerset Council is expected to make a ruling on the West Coker proposals before Christmas.

It is not currently clear whether this decision will be made through the delegated powers of its planning officers or at a meeting of its planning committee south (which handles major planning applications in the former South Somerset area).