GREEN, renewable energy is clearly going to be absolutely vital in the future, both to protect the environment and to ensure we as a country are not reliant on unstable sources from abroad.

But at the moment there seems to be a mad and almost uncontrolled dash to plant solar panels across our countryside. We report today how a large farm has been agreed for Hett, near Spennymoor. There are applications in for even bigger numbers of panels to be installed in the north of Darlington, while even picturesque Richmond is now overlooked by a solar farm.

The solar companies are not driven by an altruistic desire to save the planet, but because there is money to be made. This is reminiscent of the situation 10 or 15 years ago when companies discovered there was money to be made from on-shore windfarms and south Durham was swamped with applications for practically every ridge, leading one MP to exclaim in desperation: “We’re full.”

Residents near the solar farms are understandably concerned about the visual intrusion, as well as the water run-off, and the loss of productive farmland.

However, sacrifices are going to have to be made as, collectively, we clean up our act.

But it is the way there doesn’t seem to be joined up thinking that is most galling. The Byers Gill solar farm near Darlington is to power 70,000 homes, but at least that many homes have been built across the Tees Valley in the last decade, none of them with any solar panels on.

There are huge greenfield sites that are having vast warehouses, probably for everyone’s favourite online shop, built on them, and yet none of the warehouses’ acres of flat roofs contain any power generation.

Why are we choosing to cover our countryside with panels and not our newly-built roofs?