Co Down to light the way - and about 1,500 properties - with first large-scale solar farm
The largest solar farm in Northern Ireland could provide power for 1,500 homes during its 30-year life-span, according to the developers behind the plan.
BNRG Northern Power has been granted planning permission for the 5.1MW facility outside Downpatrick in Co Down.
It's planning to invest £6m in the project which, it said, will create 50 jobs during the construction phase and "up to" five posts once the solar farm is running.
The successful planning application represents the first approval for such a large-scale solar farm in Northern Ireland.
Planning Minister Mark H Durkan said it shows his support for the green economy.
"This is good news for renewable energy in the east Down area," he said. "This type of development helps sustain our environment through the use of renewable energy and also supports economic regeneration through the creation of jobs."
The 27-acre solar farm at Tullynaskeagh Road, Downpatrick will be connected to the nearby NIE sub-station and national grid. It will take just four months to install the 20,300 photovoltaic ground-mounted panels and related equipment. The height of the panels will approximate to ceiling height.
BNRG, which is a Dublin-based renewable energy company, said it has plans to develop its investment in solar energy in east Down further by £30m in the future, a move which would create 50 "ongoing" construction jobs and 30 new posts in administration and maintenance.
"Solar PV benefits from being easy to install, enjoys widespread public support and has a major role in connecting individuals, communities and businesses with future deployment," Sean McMullan, senior project manager at BNRG Northern Power said. "The granting of approval for this scheme is great news for Northern Ireland."
He said there is currently only around 5MW of solar energy produced in Northern Ireland from small scale roof mounted panels and none from large scale ground mounted solar farms, such as that planned for Downpatrick.
"We believe there is considerable potential for large-scale solar generation here, particularly as a genuine alternative to other forms of renewable energy generation such as wind," he added.
BNRG Northern Power is the Northern Ireland subsidiary of Dublin based BNRG Renewables. BNRG Renewables is an international renewable energy development company which specialises in utility-scale solar PV and has projects constructed and under development in seven countries. Starting, in 2007, with solar projects in south eastern Europe BNRG has moved on to develop a large portfolio of projects. The UK represents BNRG's largest market. More recently BNRG has expanded to areas in Western Europe, the Caribbean Basin and Africa, with a growing pipeline of projects in these territories.