Mid Ulster council gives green light for giant solar farm

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Northern Ireland’s largest solar farm, covering the size of 26 football pitches, has been given planning permission by Mid Ulster Council at a site near Cappagh.

Renewable energy developer Gaelectric has secured permission to build a 5MW solar farm on a 40 acre site beside its existing wind farm at Altmore Road.

Not only will the facility be larger than the Dale Farm solar farm, it will also be the first combined wind and solar farm in Northern Ireland.

The project is expected to contribute over £3m to the local and wider economy in Northern Ireland throughout its construction and operational phases, including a £150,000 community fund which Gaelectric has put in place over the lifetime of the project.

According to the planning application, the site sits in a valley with fields of sparse grass and rushes.

Construction work has already begun on six wind turbines at the site, and the company plans to be producing electricity by the end of the year.

The company says that co-locating a wind and solar farm makes sense since they tend to produce maximum energy under different conditions.

“In this way the profiles of solar and wind generation complement each other, helping us use limited grid capacity and other essential infrastructure more efficiently, and significantly reducing environmental impacts into the bargain,” said Mike Denny, development director for Gaelectric, in a statement.

However, the firm said it is has not yet had approval from infrastructure body Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) to modify its current grid connection agreement in order to accommodate the co-location. It is seeking for co-location projects to be exempted from a proposed “batching” process which will see applications to over-install generation at the maximum export capacity assessed and awarded connections in batches together.