A CONSULTATION is underway to ask people what they think of plans for a large scale solar farm near Darlington.

Lightrock Power is proposing a solar farm at Whinfield and High Grange Farms, north of Brafferton, which it says could provide enough electricity to power the equivalent of 9,900 homes or charge 12,500 electric vehicles, every year.

The company, which approached Darlington Borough Council for planning guidance last year, says it plans to submit an application this summer.

Chris Sowerbutts, founder and director at Lightrock said: “This is an excellent site for solar; it gets lots of sunshine, is well screened, and has good access.

"We’re also really pleased that we can connect on site to the local electricity network, meaning minimum disruption to the local community.

"The Whinfield Solar Farm will help the UK meet its 2050 net zero targets.”

The company has written to residents who live near the proposed farm for their feedback and has launched a website with further details.

A consultation is underway and will continue until May 17.

Lightrock is proposing to erect solar panels mounted on frames on the site, which is about 41 hectares, with access of Line Lane.

The company says sheep will continue to graze between the panels, keeping it in agricultural use, and ecological measures such as planting wildflower mixes, improving hedgerows, installing bird and bat boxes and "mammal gates" to assist wild animal's access to the site will also be taken, to ensure a net gain for biodiversity.

The company is also asking bee keepers if they would be interested in keeping bees on the site.

A number of ecological and feasibility studies have been carried out.

The solar farm could prevent more than 13,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year, helping meet renewable energy targets.

The benefits of reduced carbon dioxide in solar energy production would outweigh the carbon released during construction and transportation in two to three years, the company said.

Construction is estimated to take between four and six months, and it is hoped would be installed next spring, in 2022 and start producing energy by the summer.