EDF Renewables UK, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French utility EDF Group, has secured planning consent to start construction at its fully owned Longfield solar farm, near the city of Chelmsford in Essex, in southeast England.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has granted Development Consent Order (DCO) for solar project.

EDF Renewables UK filed the DCO application in February last year, following 18 months of engagement and consultation with stakeholders and communities.

Longfield is the first among the company’s planned DCO projects in the UK, and the planning consent allows the company to start construction at the project site.

The project will include a new solar photovoltaic (PV) array generating station, co-located with battery storage, together with grid connection infrastructure.

Longfield solar farm will have a generating capacity of up to 500MW.

It is expected to provide adequate clean energy to power more than 96,000 households annually and make an important contribution to the UK’s future energy mix.

EDF Renewables UK solar head Ben Fawcett said: “I am delighted that, after months of careful consideration, the Government has given planning consent for Longfield Solar Farm. It is a significant endorsement of our proposals.

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our consultation and the public examination.

“The feedback we received from residents, local authorities, environmental groups and many others has helped shape our plans. We will continue to work closely with them to make sure we minimise the impact of construction and maximise the huge opportunities for the area.”

EDF Renewables UK intends to start a research programme on the Longfield solar farm, evaluating the impacts of large-scale solar farms on biodiversity and wildlife in the UK.

The research will connect Longfield’s plans and commitments to deliver substantial biodiversity enhancements through habitat restoration and management.

EDF Renewables UK said that it will consider the detail of the consent and the programme for delivery of the project, prior to engaging with stakeholders and the community.

The project construction will take around two years, expected to start exporting electricity to the national grid at the start of 2028, after a period of site commissioning.

The Planning Inspectorate Chief Executive Paul Morrison said: “The Planning Inspectorate has now examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them.

“Local people, the local authority and other interested parties were able to participate in this examination. The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to all local views and the evidence gathered during the Examination before making its recommendation to the Secretary of State.”