OVER 1,000 Newport homes could be powered by two multi-million pound solar energy farms planned for the outskirts of the city.

The projects, in Langstone and Michael-y-Fedw, would see 23,000 solar photovoltaic energy panels placed on farmland generating 4.5 megawatts of electricity a year.

These panels do not need direct sunlight to generate power, and will operate on cloudy days on radiated energy from the sun - so will work efficiently even in climates like ours.

This could be the start of moves to make Newport a 'solar city'. City generation company Newport Unlimted's minutes reveal it was given a presentation in November on solar installations after the Assembly Government identified Newport as a potential pilot area because of local industry's interest in having 'green' skills.

Plans for the two solar farms have been submitted to Newport City Council. Cornwall-based Silicon Vineyard Limited applied to place 14,000 solar panels on a 13.8 acre site at Hazel Farm, Langstone, which would cost £6.25 million to install.

Technical director Abraham Cambridge said the company spoke to farmers around South Wales, but the Langstone site was deemed most suitable, with the least visual impact.

The 14,000, one metre by 1.5 metre solar panels, with a maximum height of three metres, would be hidden behind hedgerows.

Mr Abraham said they would be placed in Langstone for 25 years, providing 2.5 megawatts to the National Grid a year- enough energy to power Tata’s site in Llanwern and 500 houses.

He said Silicon Vineyard could provide work for Tata in making the systems as well as creating work for local ground workers and steel fabricators.

A second proposal was submitted by Bristol-based Aspire Planning Consultancy to place 9,120 solar energy panels on a 10 acre site at Clearwell Farm, Michaelstone-y-Fedw.

These would be 1.65 metres by 0.99 metres with a maximum height of 1.8 metres and would provide two megawatts of electricity a year.

Aspire’s managing director James Davis said the scheme will power between 500 and 650 homes and that hedgerows would hide the panels, which would take just eight weeks to assemble if permission is granted.

A public consultation meeting takes place at Langstone Village Hall, at 7pm next Thursday, while an exhibition will be at Michaelstone-y-Fedw Village Hall on the same day between 3pm and 8pm.