The Ring O Bells solar farm project was complex and took nearly three years from start to energisation. The farm, situated in rural Gloucestershire some 15km east of Bristol and in a hollow alongside the M4, comprises some 215 acres (marked in yellow). Following an initial desk top evaluation considering factors such as visibility, access, environmental and topography, a plot consisting of approximately 100acres was selected (marked in red). A formal connection offer was subsequently issued by WPD for a 16MW solar farm.
The initial planning application was submitted to South Gloucestershire Council in June 2014. Three major issues were highlighted and through lengthy evaluation, trial trenching for archaeological assets and numerous studies these were eventually mitigated against. Firstly, despite initial studies, visibility from Dyrham Park, a National Trust property was highlighted at the public consultation. Secondly, English Heritage who manage the nearby Hinton Hill Fort, raised concerns. Finally, the brook running north to south through the middle of the site was deemed a flood risk.
The outcome was to reduce the size of the project to 30 acres (Blue area) and a new formal connection was granted for a 5MW project. The Council granted planning consent on 7 August 2015 though there were conditions, mainly to do with access, highways management and landscaping, that had to be discharged before construction could commence. The site finally started to produce electricity from the sun on 17 August 2016.