According to this news report by the BBC environment Minister Liz Truss has spoken in an interview with a national newspaper declaring large-scale solar farms to be “a blight on the landscape” and she explained “I want Britain to lead the world in food and farming and to do that we need enough productive agricultural land.” This sort of comment must fall into the category I wrote about yesterday, that of commitments which our Politicians make, in this case on the hoof and then never bother to hang around long enough to be challenged, let alone come back to explain why they said so much and did so little. Whilst the scale of the ‘conflict’ between fields of photo voltaic cells and fields of food is not a matter I have any data on, Government Ministers must gain some degree of perspective. However we also need to find a way of holding people like Liz Truss to account. Leading the world in any activity demands promoting and supporting excellence which inevitably carries a cost that must be paid by someone.
A blight on the landscape, is something that clearly can be applied to acres of reflective glass and plastic, as it can to 100’s of windmills and even new homes and factories, let alone power stations and the sites needed to deal with the waste material they produce. It can also be applied to large blocks of monochrome crops. The UK has many Millions of acres of land that are incredibly beautiful and many of us would be disturbed if they were subject to treatment by any of these industries. However we cannot protect all of the land in the UK from development unless we are prepared to finance a total dependence on overseas sources of power and food and force many people to live Caravans or perhaps Tipis and Yurts. As environment Minister, Liz Truss needs to be articulating a basis for her judgement regarding how the balance between these various demands and needs will be struck. She is quoted as telling the newspaper and their many readers that rows of solar panels are “ugly” and “I’m very concerned that a lot of our land is being taken up with solar farms. We’ve already got 250 of them and we’ve got 10,000 football pitches worth of new solar farms in the pipeline.”
Ms Truss makes it clear she has no problem with putting solar panels on factory roofs and clearly there is more that can be done in that regard, however many of us would be disturbed if an Environment Minister by default promoted the building of new coal fired power stations and open cast or underground mining to power them. If we accept that there are a defined number of acres that can be used for producing food or for biomass, as well as for wind farms and solar arrays. Every tonne of food we don’t produce within the UK will need to be imported from overseas or some of us will go without, just as every Kwh of energy we don’t generate ourselves will need to be purchased from elsewhere or else our lights will begin to go out. The problem is that decisions to invest in wind, sun, crops or housing and factories cannot be turned on or off quickly and the tenure of a Government Minister is a will of the wisp by contrast. Our environment is far too important for this Government or the next or even the one after that to use as election fodder. It is time we hold people like Elizabeth Truss for the decisions taken when she was in education, let alone these latest utterances of ‘wisdom’.