BEHIND THE SCENES
What is up with this site?
This site is run by a small collective of people from the local area who believe that the Stop Botley West campaign is ill-conceived, short-sighted, and fundamentally driven by the petty interests of those running the campaign.They may not consider themselves to be NIMBYs, but NIMBYism is hardwired into their every part of their campaign.
We originally believed that the people behind the Stop Botley West campaign ultimately meant well. That opinion has changed: members of the core committee have now revealed themselves to be climate change deniers who don't believe in reality; that there is a very limited window for humanity to make the changes needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, we don't doubt that the majority of its supporters do consider themselves to be environmentalists with the best interests of the local natural world at heart. But we also consider them to have missed one of the most fundamental pressures on current thinking about how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions: we do not have any time left.
We don't have time to pettifog around how new builds should have solar panels on their roofs and gradually build up stock in that way, or to wait for a change in government so that the effective ban on onshore wind is overturned. We don't have time to identify small brownfield sites for solar, or to wait for nuclear stations to go through the planning process they'll inevitably suffer objections to. We don't have time to wait for the cultural shift we'll need to really cut into meat consumption or domestic heat losses due to inefficient building. These are all things we also need to do, but the priority has to be to take advantage of the opportunities we have right now and, for a number of reasons, Botley West provides a unique chance to connect a really big solar farm to the National Grid now.
We need immediate and urgent action. The UN says that "Emissions need to go down now, and be cut by almost half by 2030" if we're going to keep temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Botley West Solar Farm is part of that.
Do we also need to put solar on roofs, and build nuclear power plants, and invest heavily in off-shore wind farms? Yes. We need to do everything we possibly can to reduce the emissions being pumped day after day into our atmosphere. Every day we spend negotiating is another day closer to irrevocable tipping points. And Stop Botley West are openly discussing their main tactic being Delay. They want to glue up the works and use up as much as possible of the little remaining time humanity has.
You might think that the cost to the local environment under the panels is too great to justify such a large power station. To that, we respond: how great will the cost be if we prevaricate and vacillate such that the world continues to heat, to 2 degrees or further? How well do you think local wildlife will handle the increased massive heatwaves and droughts being predicted by bodies such as NASA if we wait and wait and treat NIMBY campaigns like Stop Botley West with kid gloves, rather than the mockery they deserve?
Please find below a number of longer-form, more serious responses to the misinformation being put out by the Stop Botley West campaign. On our Twitter account we have also been posting a number of detailed breakdowns of the claims made on the Stop Botley West 'Learn More' page. These will be turned into blogs at some point, but for now they have been collated in the thread below.
It's too big
There is no size of solar farm or other renewable energy installation which wouldn't get some form of local campaign group opposing it. The Solar Campaign Alliance is a loose collection of such groups, all of whom have their own NIMBY-ish reasons why their specific solar farm isn't in the right place, and all of whom would reject the label of NIMBY for themselves.
This solar farm in Anglesey was opposed for being too big and using too much farmland, despite being just 150 acres. That's the same size as this farm in Cornwall which was opposed on the grounds of it being too big. This one in Berkshire was just 70 acres, and opposed for being the wrong use of the land and... too big.
These objections don't disappear if it's other forms of energy. A planned wind farm in Neath Port Talbot is objected against because, you guessed it, the blades will be too big for their liking.
There is no magic size for a project which a NIMBY is willing to accept: "too big" is an objection which fits every need and purpose.
The defunct solar panels will go to landfill
The idea that thousands of acres of solar panels will end up in landfill is nonsense. Solar panels are full of valuable materials like aluminium, copper wiring, glass, silver and silicone. Recycling panels to a mass-recovery rate higher than 75% is already possible and processes with the potential to recover 94% of the silver and 97% of the silicon in panes have been described. The PV industry is already on the way to a circular economy.
The PV recycling industry is expected to expand significantly over the next 10-15 years. Preliminary estimates suggest that the raw materials technically recoverable from PV panels could cumulatively yield a value of up to USD 450 million (in 2016 terms) by 2030. This is because until now there simply hasn't been sufficient numbers of PV panels which needed recycling to sustain a larger industry. With millions of panels now set to be coming out of service as their lifecycles finish, this industry is going to grow fast. StopBotleyWest's suggestion that they are all going to go to landfill is ignorant of reality.
Marta Victoria et al, 'Solar photovoltaics is ready to power a sustainable future', Joule, Volume 5, Issue 5, 2021, Pages 1041-1056, ISSN 2542-4351, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2021.03.005
It’s not practical or affordable
Solar is already the cheapest form of energy in history according to the International Energy Agency: “solar PV is consistently cheaper than new coal- or gasfired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen”.
It is expected to keep getting cheaper and the faster its built the cheaper it will be. It's a snowball effect, and everyone benefits from earlier action.
Yes, solar energy is variable and we will need other technology to support it. The latest science suggests that hydrogen produced using renewables at times of high supply (e.g. lots of sun or wind) is the best option for long-term storage - meaning we can power our homes with just summer sunshine on a dark, still December night. The UK’s geography is favourable for hydrogen storage due to an abundance of salt caverns, which have the potential to store 9TWh of hydrogen for long duration storage. Hydrogen electrolysers can ramp production up and down quickly, and so can be placed in areas of potential constraints to soak up excess generation
Just because we don’t have hydrogen electrolysers ready now, we should be building the generation capacity in the system now to power them at times of high generation.
We will also need other renewable sources, such as offshore and onshore wind farms, hydroelectric dams, tidal power stations, and nuclear. Eliminating the emissions we produce from power generations needs us to develop a suite of tools, but it is achievable. This isn't a niche idea: credible plans are in the public domain for how we can do it! But we can't do it quickly when local campaigns tie us to the yoke of unnecessary carbon emissions for months and years whilst the planet heats up.
It’s not an efficient way to produce energy in the UK
The UK government is aiming to “fully decarbonise” Great Britain’s electricity system by 2035. The CCC says that to achieve that, solar capacity will need to expand as quickly – every year – as its fastest recorded rate in the UK. Citation
Big projects like this are key to that rapid expansion.
As the climate changes the UK and particularly England is seeing more hours of sunshine every year, making solar an even better option. Last year we had nearly 200 more hours of sunshine than 100 years ago and the trend continues upwards. Citation.
The CCC says that in 2035 modelling illustrates that in a normal weather year, variable renewables (i.e. solar and wind) could produce around 70% of total generation, and other relatively inflexible sources (e.g. nuclear and BECCS) could make up an additional 20% , across the year. Citation.
Stop Botley West’s own website admits that annually the power station would provide energy equivalent to ⅔ of households in Oxfordshire. “The developer's claims of providing solar energy to 330,000 UK homes applies only to the sunniest day of the year. Botley West will provide electricity for only two thirds of this number (225,000) throughout the year.” Citation. Combined with the power storage options coming online, this will make a huge difference in the emissions created by power generation in the country.
But what we really need to do is make solar on houses mandatory, stop eating meat, ban drilling for new oil, insulate homes etc. etc.
Yes we do, we need to do all that and build utility-scale solar - we have to do it all, and we have to do it all as soon as possible.
The world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said at COP27. “But that 1.5 degree goal is on life support – and the machines are rattling. We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return. And to avoid that dire fate, all G20 countries must accelerate their transition now – in this decade. Developed countries must take the lead.”
The IPCC agrees. “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” said Skea. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
By advocating leaving this one brilliant project in favour of other “better” projects that are nowhere in sight, Stop Botley West is participating in climate misinformation, whether they believe that or not - it’s climate whataboutism as much as Nigel Farage saying “We are a nation that produces 1.8 per cent of global carbon dioxide, so I do not get closing down our aluminium smelters”
Furthermore, many of the actions pointed to in this pursuit of the things we “should” be doing instead of building a solar farm that could power the majority of the county are based on either government policy (stop drilling, mandatory panels on roofs) or individual action (insulate your house, stop eating beef).
Where these actions aren't on the government agenda (these are not), those making the argument would have us wait for a new government or a change of mind. Where they are individual choices all we can do is make a change ourselves and hope others follow suit - but we have no control over the timeline or scale. Botley West is private investment that is ready to act now.
What’s better - the forest we plant today, the bigger forest we hope the government will plant soon, or the tree we hope our neighbour will plant if we plant one of our own and talk loudly about the benefits?
We have to protect agricultural land to ensure food security in the UK
The Independent National Food Strategy prepared for the government and published in 2021 says “Reducing food production on some of this land poses very little risk to our food security. Losing the least productive 20% of farmland would reduce the calories we produce by only 3%.”
Want to know more?
A handy selection of links you can read yourself! Don't just take our word for any of this - all of the information we're providing is sourced wherever we can.
Solar Energy UK: Natural Capital Best Practice Guidance: Increasing biodiversity at all stages of a solar farm's lifecycle (link)