Operation Stack: A combined Lorry Park and Solar Farm Solution

Can I suggest what has to be a practical solution to the chaos of Operation Stack.

I think it might be initially dismissed as a bit “off the wall” but I will also cover why it is practical.

Operation Stack is the parking of lorries on the M20 normally from junction 8 onwards depending on the number of lorries, potentially taking the whole M20 through to junction 10 or 11. Most recently this has involved over 4,000 lorries though might normally range from 1,500 to 2,500.

P&O ferries estimate operation stack costs the UK £250 million per day. That will be the impact on the closure of Dover, not the storage of lorries, but even if that part had a cost impact of say £10 million
The proposal below is based on 2,500 lorries though clearly scale-able.
The alternative to using the M20 for emergency lorry parking is to have a an area set aside as a dedicated lorry park.  The challenges then are how can you have a large area which is left empty and unused apart from rare events such as a storm or fog in the channel or less rare, a strike. Additionally the lorry park would need some kind of surface that mitigates against mud and of course provides services for lorry drivers. Access is of course a requirement though that is needed whatever.
Having listened to operationstackarguments for or against a lorry park over many years, the killer remains the reluctance to have a large land area just doing nothing. This proposal deals with that.

First off, how big will a park need to be. My estimate based on 2,500 lorries is between 40 and 50 acres, realistically a large industrial farming field. I have estimated this by taking a juggernaut length as  16 metres and a width of about 3 metres, That’s 48 square metres, say an allocation of 60 square metres per lorry allowing for parking etc.

A 10 MW solar farm is usually associated with an area of 40 to 50 acres, this normally represents 1/3 coverage by solar panels, the whole field is not covered so as to allow for sunshine to reach the ground and allows for wild flowers and sheep grazing.

An alternative is of course to allocate a 50 to 100 acre field as a lorry park and cover it with concrete so it is a proper lorry park, we could have another 50 to 100 acres next to it as a solar farm, There are many who would consider this the sensible normal solution. “Cover a field with concrete, take up twice as much space, then most likely add shade for the lorries. Later on some bright spark will suggest putting solar panels on the shade / roofs!

There are an increasing number of car parks with solar panels acting as shade and providing an additional use for the land. The panels are simply placed high acting as the car port roof – its not rocket science.

A lorry car port would simply mean raising the panels by an additional 2 metres or so. Possibly providing additional width. Not difficult.

So, if a field is suitable for and has planning permission for a solar farm, by modifying the design of the panel supporting structure, possibly also increasing the panel density (the field is not shared with sheep or wild-flowers so we don’t need to worry about excess shade) we have a solar  farm that can also take operation stack lorries.

lorryshade

Why is this an increasingly sensible solution?

The reluctance to assign a large field or fields to operation stack is possibly the aversion to seeing an area laying fallow for in a sense, ever.  But we are happy to cover a field with solar panels.

The panel structures can be set out so that lorries can park in rows, that’s easy. There would need to be a marshalling area on the entry and exit of the rows, again, just allocation of space.

Would we need hard surface? Actually no, the panels can be installed with guttering, thus a minimal risk of mud even in the heaviest rain storm, thus the only managed surface might be in the marshalling area.

The panels will provide shade both against rain and sun

Power will be relatively easy. While the panels individually generate at 12 volts DC , combined and inverted to higher AC voltage, adding mains voltage outlets would be straightforward.

Of course the field retains its primary function as a solar farm, operation stack or not.

Who pays?  Well, solar farms are installed anyway and make money through RO (being phased out) and FIT. I have no doubt that a grant could be made available to cover the additional installation costs, the biggest cost will most likely be access to and from the road network, however that is a cost whatever solution is selected. The additional costs might be funded by using the site – along with the solar farm – as an overnight lorry park.

Other impacts? Well, the lorry park is all but hidden, the main planning will be focused on a high level solar farm, and ad-hoc lorry access, not as a lorry park per se.

Actually there is an ideal location already and maybe just needs an approach to the landowner:

http://www.renewables-map.co.uk/details3.asp?pageid=3533&pagename=Guston

(NB. This is my suggestion, I have no connection to Guston Court) Guston Court Farm has planning permission to build a solar farm, I cannot think of a better location.
Other locations would be wherever it is appropriate to build a solar farm and has a proximity to the M20. Oaklands Solar Farm at Hothfield. This solar farm has been built but could be re-established as a solar lorry port, but would need a link to the M20. .

But what about any existing solar installations?  Surly the challenge these days is getting permission / making a decision!  Retrofitting with a revised solar panel mounting system is realistically not that big a deal.

Whatever solution, the risk remains that as soon as “Stack” is a short term memory, there are other pressing issues, so an empty lorry park is not a sensible priority.  This solution, its a Solar Farm! Tends to avoid that.
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