Plans for one of the largest solar farms to be created in Scotland have been approved and has the potential to power 5,000 homes.
Bristol-based Elgin Energy’s proposed 47ha Speyslaw site, equivalent to 40 football fields, near Urquhart will include 80,000 solar panels, a substation, 20 invertors and a CCTV camera system. The permission, granted by Moray Council, for the operation of the solar farm is valid for 30 years which starts from the first time energy is exported from the site. After this period, the developer will have one year to decommission the development and restore the site.
The firm will have to send regular reports to the council on the energy generated at the facility. A number of environmental assessments are still in progress.
Dual purpose solar farm
The solar farm is to feature underground cabling which will allow farm livestock to graze around the panels. No trees, hedges or woodland will be removed or altered during its installation.
Claire Feaver, Chair of Moray Council’s Planning and Regulatory Services Committee, said: ““The opportunity to continue grazing on the land, together with the Habitat Management Plan, will maintain and enhance the diverse range of species in and around the site. I see this as a win-win.”
In a statement, Elgin Energy said: "Existing field boundaries will not be disturbed and mature hedgerows will provide generous screening for the site. The land will remain in agricultural use in the form of sheep grazing while being used for the dual purpose of generating low-carbon renewable energy."
Scottish Renewables welcomed news that the Speyslaw project had been given the go-ahead.
Exploring Scotland’s solar potential
The largest Scottish solar farm is currently a 13MW project at Errol Estate in Perthshire, which went live in May last year. Bristol-based Elgin Energy also developed the scheme, which includes 55,000 solar panels capable of generating power for more than 3,500 homes. Elgin Energy has already developed 250MW of solar across 24 projects in the UK and Ireland and is planning an even bigger farm in Moray.
It is seeking planning permission for a 50MW project at the former RAF Milltown airfield, a few miles north east of Elgin. A decision on this application is not expected until early next year.
Scottish Renewables policy manager, Stephanie Clark, said in a statement: "Large-scale solar has played a part in Scotland since 2005 and we are now beginning to see more applications for commercial projects coming forward.
"North east Scotland's clear skies and longer daylight hours mean the area is attractive to developers.
"Large schemes like this one are able to use that resource to provide clean electricity which will help Scotland meet its climate change targets.
"Further progress in the solar sector, however, depends on the level of support provided by the UK government through the Feed-in Tariff and the Contracts for Difference schemes, both of which remain the subject of much uncertainty."