Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Sunderland AFC has proposed the development of a new solar farm near its Academy of Light training centre, marking a significant step in the club’s sustainability strategy.

Short Summary:

  • Proposal for a 40MW solar farm submitted to South Tyneside Council.
  • Renewable energy aims to meet the needs of 9,700 homes and support local jobs.
  • Project aligns with the club’s goal to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2028 and net-zero emissions by 2040.

In a significant move towards sustainability, Sunderland AFC has proposed the creation of a large solar farm near its Academy of Light. The club recently submitted the detailed plan to the South Tyneside Council’s planning department, aiming to install a renewable energy generating facility that would include a 40MW photovoltaic array alongside several ancillary infrastructures such as substations, transformer stations, and switchgear. The proposed project, covering approximately 48.2 hectares, highlights the club’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint.

The club’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Davison, emphasised the holistic benefits of this initiative, stating:

“Generating affordable, green electricity is important to the country’s energy security and achieving net zero, and we have an opportunity to play our part. We all recognise our role in reducing our impact on the environment.”

The proposed solar farm is not merely a step towards sustainability but also a strategic move to support the UK’s broader objectives. The UK has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and projects like these are crucial in meeting those national targets. The proposal is in line with the sustainability commitments declared by both South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council, who have both acknowledged climate emergencies.

The facility is projected to produce enough renewable energy to power around 9,700 average-sized homes in South Tyneside, effectively offsetting the CO2 emissions of approximately 3,700 residents. Additionally, the scheme would bolster the local economy by providing major manufacturing and industrial entities with cost-effective clean energy, thus supporting local employment.

Davison also stressed the community engagement aspect of the project:

“Engaging with our partners, supporters, neighbours, local councils, and stakeholders is an important part of delivering our sustainability plan. The solar farm forms a cornerstone of our low carbon ambitions, and we are keen to share our proposals with the community.” Filling in more details, he added, “The development proposed is fundamental to delivering their shared vision, as well as in meeting national objectives for energy supply and low carbon energy development.”

To ensure public involvement, Sunderland AFC has scheduled a series of public exhibitions that will take place in mid-July. These exhibitions will offer locals and stakeholders an opportunity to learn more about the project and provide feedback. The information will also be accessible via a dedicated website that will be launched to coincide with the exhibitions.

Supporting this expansive project is Cundall, a renowned multidisciplinary engineering consultancy. With multiple successful projects under their belt, including the Riverside Sunderland redevelopment and the All English Lawn Tennis Club Indoor Tennis Centre, their partnership aims to bring this ambitious project to fruition. Cundall also shares a commitment to zero-carbon designs across all its ventures by 2030.

The solar farm plan is a key component of Sunderland AFC’s broader Sustainability Strategy, unveiled in February last year. This strategy not only targets renewable energy self-sufficiency by 2028 but also focuses on several innovative projects, including a proposed ‘canopy solar farm’ above the car park at the Stadium of Light and a geothermal energy system based on the disused mine beneath the stadium. Alongside these renewable energy initiatives, the club is also working on waste reduction and water conservation projects, aiming to harvest rainwater and minimise single-use plastic.

Furthermore, the project’s community benefits package is set to invest £15,000 annually into charitable organisations within South Tyneside, enhancing its positive local impact. This aligns well with the club’s efforts to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on community engagement and environmental responsibility.

From an environmental impact perspective, the project team has conducted thorough surveys, including ecological assessments, to evaluate the potential effects and to outline biodiversity improvements. These enhancements range from improving local hedgerows to restoring biodiverse habitats, ensuring the project supports local flora and fauna.

Addressing potential concerns, planning documents highlight the project’s minimal traffic impact and the future restoration of the site to agricultural use once the 30-year solar farm life cycle concludes. The documents state:

“The duration of the proposal is limited to 30 years and the site will be reinstated to agricultural land with enhancements in terms of biodiversity, quality of agricultural land, and community benefit through the investments made.”

As Sunderland AFC continues to rally community support and finalise planning permissions, this development stands as a pivotal part of the club’s commitment to sustainability. The innovative and forward-looking approach demonstrates how the club plans to merge its rich football legacy with a responsible environmental strategy, thereby setting a benchmark for other clubs in the UK and worldwide.

South Tyneside Council is currently reviewing the application and welcoming public comments until 24 July 2024. This feedback will be crucial in determining the project’s approval and the subsequent commencement of the ambitious renewable energy initiative.

This initiative signifies a comprehensive step toward a greener future, aligning with broader objectives of climate change mitigation, local economic support, and sustainable community development. Sunderland AFC’s proactive stance and thorough planning clearly illustrate the intertwined benefits of sports and sustainable development.

For those interested in following this developing story, further details and updates can be found on GamblingNews.co.uk.

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