Guidance Note for the Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation in North Somerset Supplementary Planning Document


2. Introduction

What is solar photovoltaic (PV) technology?

2.1 Photovoltaic cells consist of layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon and work by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. When light shines on the cell, it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced. 


2.2 Solar cells are grouped together to form solar panels (or modules) and in turn, a number solar panels are grouped together to form solar PV arrays. Solar cells need to be orientated as close to south facing as possible and need to be clear of overshadowing from buildings or tress. The solar energy that is converted into electricity will need to be exported to the electricity network.


Is planning permission required?

2.3 Most domestic, roof mounted solar PV systems are now permitted development (so don’t require planning permission). This is as long as they don’t protrude more than 200mm beyond the plane of the wall or the roof slope. Domestic stand-alone systems are also permitted unless they are:

  • more than 4 metres in height
  • installed less than 5 metres away from any boundary
  • above 9 metres square
  • within the curtilage of listed buildings
  • in a conservation area: must not be located on a wall fronting a highway or be nearer to the highway than the dwellinghouse or the block of flats. No more than one stand alone solar panel within the curtilage will be permitted.

2.4 Non-domestic systems will need to apply for planning permission.

Why do we need this guidance?

2.5 North Somerset has received and expects to receive further proposals for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) arrays. This is due both to the relatively high levels of solar energy potential in the south west of England compared with other regions in the UK (see Figure 1), coupled with the existence of the Government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) subsidy for the installation of renewable generation facilities of up to 5MW output and Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC), which Ofgem issue to electricity generators relating to the amount of eligible renewable electricity they generate.  

2.6 Whilst we are supportive of the installation of renewable and low carbon energy generation technologies, we recognise that this is a relatively new technology and due to their scale, can have a variety of impacts. We therefore need to display appropriate control in their application and are setting out clear parameters for the development of solar PV arrays within this document.