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King Charles is bringing green ideas home to Sandringham

King Charles III is making plans to install around 2,000 solar panels in the grounds of Sandringham Estate, in a sustainability drive that could see the entire country property powered by zero-carbon energy.

It’s an ambitious proposal, which, if approved, will produce enough power to meet the “current and predicted future electricity demands” of the 20,000-acre royal residence, according to a proposal submitted by a planning agent on behalf of Sandringham Estate earlier this month.

Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. It is also where the royal family traditionally gathers to celebrate Christmas.

The solar panels will be built on a secluded plot of land near Sandringham House, currently used as horse-grazing paddocks. This way, the development “would not result in the loss of any productive agricultural land,” according to the planning agent.

The site is surrounded by mature trees and sits just outside the estate’s formal gardens. Six meters (nearly 20 feet) of hedgerow will have to be destroyed to allow access to the site, if the development does get the green light, but the applicant says there would be no adverse impact on ecology.

The King’s latest venture follows the installation of a small number of solar panels on the roof of Sandringham House in early 2022. The monarch’s private residence, Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, also has some solar panels in its gardens.

It is one of the King’s boldest home environmental projects to date, despite questions being raised about how his ascent to the throne would affect the amount of time he can devote to climate issues.

Charles has been a long-time champion of environmental causes. Most recently, he used his platform at the World Climate Action Summit in Dubai, part of the COP28 climate conference, to call for a rapid increase in renewable energy.

“In 2050, our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do,” he said in December, adding: “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.”

The installation of solar panels on one of the royal family’s favorite estates could be viewed as a strong signal that Charles wishes to put his words into action.

However, some have raised concerns about the plans. In response to the planning application, Steve Gower, a police officer from Norfolk Constabulary, has warned that extra security measures could be needed to stop the solar panels attracting thieves to the area.

“The rate of thefts from such facilities has been increasing in recent years,” he said in a written response to the planning application. “The combination of the rise in the value of scrap metal and the remote locations of such venues in rural areas means that security needs to be appropriately considered.”

The King’s plans are subject to a consultation process, which will run until next Friday, after which they will also be assessed by the local planning authority. A final decision is expected to be made in early June.

If permission is granted, the solar farm will have a lifespan of 40 years before the land is returned to paddocks once again, according to the planning application.

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