PLANS for a 20 acre solar farm in fields close to residential areas have been revealed by a renewable energy firm.

Lightsource Renewable Energy is looking to erect dozens of solar panels on land off School Aycliffe Lane, near Newton Aycliffe, opposite the Great Aycliffe Town Council offices.

Although the plans are at an early stage, the company is preparing information packs for residents living nearby and has invited anyone who wants to know more about the development to attend a community information event.

Lightsource says that the proposed site will be capable of generating about 5MWp of clean energy, enough to power 1,300 homes – equivalent to taking 493 family cars off the road.

Solar farms are becoming increasingly common as technology improves to allow the panels to absorb energy from daylight rather than sunlight.

The panels on the proposed solar farm would be raised from the ground in rows, leaving the field below to be grazed by sheep.

The company has also brought in ecologists to create a biodiversity management plan that would see wild flowers planted, bird and bat roosting boxes and log piles added to the site to encourage wildlife.

Mike Day, from Lightsource, said: “It's still very early days for the plans. Information packs will be going out to residents over the next couple of weeks and we are happy for any residents to contact us for further information.

“We will also be contracting local businesses and service providers wherever possible throughout the installation and ongoing maintenance and land management of the site.”

Eddy Adam, ward councillor for Aycliffe West on Durham County Council, said he was aware of the proposals but declined to comment on the content of the plan as he had not been able to examine the details fully.

He added: “What I would say is that the public needs to attend this meeting and get as much information as possible before taking a position on it.”

The community event will take place at Xcel Centre, Long Tens Way, Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham, on Monday, December 15, from 5.30pm until 8pm.