UK environment secretary restates unfounded claims of solar farm agricultural impacts

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The UK’s newly reinstated environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, has once again claimed that solar farms are in opposition to agricultural practices in an interview with a local newspaper in her constituency.

Speaking to Diss Express Truss, who was handed the environment brief again after the Conservative’s victory in UK general election earlier this month, said: “I think productive agricultural land should be used for food production…We have a really important food and farming industry in this county and I don’t want to see solar panels on really productive agricultural land.”

Truss continued by championing her move to scrap Common Agricultural payments for land which is currently housing solar farms. However, a freedom of information (FOI) request filed by PV Tech’s sister website, Solar Power Portal, earlier this year revealed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was informed by the CAP Direct Payments Team that solar farms do not have a “serious” impact on the UK’s agricultural output, as Truss had claimed.

Documents released under the FOI show that the CAP Direct Payments Team told Defra in September 2014 that: “Given the small areas of land covered [by solar farms] currently, it is not possible to argue that, at the national level, there is yet a serious impact on agricultural output.”

At the time, Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association, one of the UK’s industry bodies, said that the information revealed by the FOI showed “that this was not a decision made on the basis of evidence, but rather on politics”.

During the interview with Diss Express, Truss explained that she supported the deployment of solar “in the right place”, namely commercial roof space as opposed to agricultural land.

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