Colliery site looks to clean up with sun power

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FOR decades, Askern colliery helped to keep Britain’s lights burning, in the days when life underground was dangerous and nobody fretted about carbon emissions.

Soon the site could be home to a “green” energy plant which is powered by the sun.

Harworth Estates and its partners Re-Fin Solar and Juwi have submitted plans to Doncaster Council for a 36-hectare solar energy farm on the former colliery site.

The proposed energy farm would collect and convert daylight into electricity.

Supporters of the proposal believe it could generate around 15.7m kilowatts of power annually, which is enough to supply 4,000 households.

According to Harworth Estates, the proposed development will meet around half of Doncaster’s total renewable energy target for power generation by 2021. Advocates of the scheme believe it will also show that Yorkshire can play a leading role in the roll-out of green energy schemes.

If approved, the solar energy farm will be developed by low carbon energy company RE-Fin Solar and its project partner Juwi.

The installation would take around six months to build and would have a lifespan of around 25 years.

Harworth Estates owns around 200 former coal sites across the Midlands and Northern England. It plans to develop a range of low carbon energy projects over the coming years, including schemes which use wind and water power.

Since the Askern colliery closed in 1991, Harworth Estates has carried out work to restore the site, to such an extent that it has gained “green belt” classification.

The old colliery site is designated for mixed use regeneration in the Doncaster unitary development plan.

Gary Owens, the development manager at Harworth Estates, said “As custodians of many former coal mining sites, Harworth Estates takes seriously its remit to create jobs in the communities where we work. Low carbon energy projects are an important part of Harworth Estates’ commitment to the community and the environment, and this Askern solar project will deliver both energy and jobs.

“Solar power is an important part of the UK’s move to guarantee energy security and reduce carbon emissions. It would be most appropriate for Askern, once a major coal-producing site, to be home to Yorkshire’s largest solar energy plant. For a plant to generate enough power for 4,000 houses will be ideal for a town the size of Askern.

“Of course, there is a global demand for low carbon energy as fossil fuel reserves are running out. But there is also an environmental need to reduce our carbon footprint and each person, each company and each community has to play its part. Harworth Estates’ role is to identify which of its sites best suit energy projects and to bring in appropriate development partners.

“We have already consulted local people at an exhibition about the Askern plans and feedback has been very positive. It is important to the local community that we put this site to good use and create jobs where we can.

“It is more than 20 years since the colliery closed, and this plan will once again see Askern contributing to the local and national energy agenda.”

The proposal submitted for planning approval aims to have around 72,000 non-reflective solar panels fixed to the ground, standing 2.5 metres high and set in rows, tilted to face south.

It would be possible for sheep or cattle to graze under them. The plans also include proposals to improve access to the site for local people.

The panels will feed energy into the national grid. Harworth Estates and Re-Fin Solar would like the solar energy farm to become an educational site. If the plans are approved, local schoolchildren could be invited to tour the site.

Harworth Estates is also involved in the transformation of a vast disused and reclaimed industrial site In South Yorkshire.

Harworth Estate’s Waverley site is a 700-acre former UK Coal surface mine site that has been restored in order to develop a new residential and business community between Sheffield and Rotherham.

Over the next 20 years, Harworth Estates plans to create a community of 9,000 people, who will live in a lakeside community.

Around 4,000 new homes will be built, along with shops, restaurants, schools, leisure facilities, health and community centres and parks.

Along with the adjoining Advanced Manufacturing Park, the Waverley project is expected to create job opportunities for about 7,000 people.

After 10 years of surface mine coal extraction, and private investment of more than £100m from UK Coal, Harworth Estates secured outline planning consent for the development in 2011.

The project is expected to contribute more than £1bn to the local economy over the next 20 years.