Plans for solar plant to power Dale Farm dairy site
Plans are under way to build a multi-million pound solar farm which could power Dale Farm's huge dairy site in Co Tyrone, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The development is earmarked for a site on the Moneymore Road, just outside Cookstown, close to the dairy giant's milk processing facility.
The 4.9MWp development is currently in the early stages of the planning process, and would be capable of producing enough electricity to power thousands of homes.
It's understood the farm will be connected to one of Dale Farm's major production sites, which is around 350 metres away from the site.
The nearby creamery at Dunmanbridge is the largest milk processing site in Northern Ireland.
Richard Bowman of Strategic Planning, the firm handling the application, said: "The site will be 25-30 acres, and the proposal is to link it to the Dale Farm factory.
"The firm behind it is CES in Dublin.
"Dale Farm will be plugging in to it.
"It will unlikely satisfy their full energy requirements, but it will be a boost to them."
It's understood the land is owned by a third party, with CES negotiating use for the large solar farm.
Mr Bowman said it terms of planning "it's not an overly controversial application".
Dale Farm did not wish to comment on the plans.
The latest application comes after Environment Minister Mark H Durkan announced planning approval last year for Northern Ireland's second large-scale solar farm near Antrim. Located in Crumlin, the proposed development by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd is in excess of 30 acres in size.
It will be capable of generating a total of 6.5MW of electricity, enough to power nearly 1,650 homes during its proposed 30-year lifespan.
But author and architect Jane Burnside raised concerns over the number of solar farm applications in the works.
She said guidelines had also been issued by the Environment Minister to help clarify both the size and scale of such developments.
"It will be about 25 to 30 acres. The minister issued guidance on this back in July," she said.
"If there is an advertisement in the paper, it should include size and mega watts.
"We are being flooded with applications, but we don't have the proper planning to deal with them."
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Lightsource Renewable Energy, headed by Antrim man Nick Boyle, revealed his firm is aiming to invest several hundred million euro in Ireland over the next five years.
The UK-based firm, which is the world's third largest solar energy company outside of China and also the biggest in Europe, announced that it was making a "significant" investment right across Ireland.
The company both develops standalone solar farms and pairs with property owners who rent out land to host solar panels, and it also installs and maintains the panels during their lifetime.
Last week the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment said the current subsidy system for onshore wind energy will now end next April.
A decision to put an end to the subsidy system a year early was announced as former Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell started a two-week consultation on the proposal.
Mr Bell has previously said the system would stay until 2017.