Say No To Sunnica action group warns of battery danger as they accuse company of using 'smoke and mirrors' to put positive spin on amendments to plans for solar farm near Newmarket
A group opposed to the vast Sunnica Energy farm which could surround five villages to the north of Newmarket has accused the company of using ‘smoke and mirrors’ in an attempt to put a positive spin on amendments to their plans.
In a recent newsletter Sunnica said that as a result of feedback, they no longer planned to use pieces of land in two areas to the south of Isleham and the north of Freckenham for solar panels in their East site because they were too close to homes.
In the West site, the company said solar panels had been moved further away from homes and fields within the site boundary had been excluded completely.
These changes would allow additional habitat for stone curlews and other nesting birds and increase wetland and grassland to provide an additional buffer to Chippenham Fen, said Sunnica.
But Isobel Cross, a member of the Say No To Sunnica community group, said the company had been forced into these measures.
“While it appears to be in response to community feedback, much of the change will be as a result of extended surveys which have been undertaken.
"These will have forced the adjustments to exclude biodiverse or archaeologically rich areas from being included within the boundaries of the planned sites,” said Mrs Cross.
“Sunnica are simplifying new information with a positive spin. It’s just smoke and mirrors.
“While they appear to have made reductions around the margins, they have made the battery sites bigger and this should be of enormous concern because it is bringing large lithium-ion batteries close to our homes and work places,” she added.
A recent paper by three eminent scientists has called on the government and regulators to hold an urgent review of proposals for the use of mega-scale lithium-ion batteries, which are prone to a phenomenon known as thermal runaway where the stored energy is released in an uncontrolled manner as heat, causing fires and the release of toxic gases.
These incidents, 30 of which have been reported globally at huge sites such as that proposed by Sunnica, can result in the combustion of nearby structures and the emissions of large quantities of highly toxic, life-threatening gases which could pose a threat to neighbours and firefighters.
“As a result of this research, we are calling for such installations to be several kilometres from habitation and not 1,500 metres from a primary school,” said Mrs Cross.
Sunnica’s final plans are expected to be submitted in the autumn and the final decision will be made by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, who will appoint an independent examining authority.