Belfast Telegraph

New 'green' hotel for Co Antrim coast will be powered by solar and wind energy only

By John Mulgrew

A Co Antrim solar power firm is building a 24-bedroom 'green' hotel that will be powered entirely by renewable energy, it can be revealed.

Pearse McHenry (30), managing director of BHC Distributors, said it will run the new development solely with wind and solar energy.

It's already built a series of chalets on a farm outside Ballycastle, and is now planning to extend that further, and build the new hotel.

The hotel and holiday homes will be powered through a combination of sun and wind.

"We hope to have it open for St Patrick's Day in 2018," he explained.

"We are going to build it ourselves and then lease it out.

"It's something Ballycastle and the north coast is in need of.

"The views are amazing. We currently have four chalets and will soon have seven.

"There is a 225kw wind turbine and 50kw solar. Between the two, they would have powered about 136 homes.

"So that at the moment is feeding our recycling business, it's feeding the chalets, and there is more than enough for the hotel.

"We have our own borehole, so will have water on site.

"It's almost like a sustainable village.

"Green tourism is getting more and more important."

The family business has been involved in the housing and building trade for decades, and started in solar panels around 2009 following a trip to see them in action in Bulgaria.

Solar Power NI in Ballycastle has installed panels for a range of big name businesses here.

"Over the past year we have installed for Lookers, Charles Hurst on the Boucher Road, Omniplex Cinemas and Calor Gas," Mr McHenry said.

"We recently won the best use of renewable sources for our installation at Dunamallaght farm in Ballycastle."

Under the business Solar Power NI, the company installs panels for both businesses and homes.

It's also expanded to become the Irish supplier of Solarwatt products from Germany, and is growing its business in the Republic.

Mr McHenry said the company expanded into solar installations shortly after the recession, which boosted business as construction work contracted following the housing crash.

Some of its bigger jobs have included a 250kw solar panel array for car firm Lookers - enough to power more than 40 homes each year.

"We are now working on jobs which are 1MW and more. One job is more than 6,000 panels," Mr McHenry said.

"I see the south of Ireland as a very big market, and it's easier (to work in) with regulations at the minute."

Mr McHenry said he got into the solar business through a friend.

"In 2009 there was a friend who was building a big solar park, around 25 acres," he said.

"That was the first time we came across it, and started to look at it.

"I was graduating from Queen's, not much was happening, so it worked out well with timing."

The company is now supplier for German business Solarwatt, and will soon begin selling solar battery systems.

"We started buying direct from them, and were using them in our kitchen and bathroom business.

"We were monitoring how they worked in our climate and it was a good case study.

"They worked very well - since then we have done a lot of installations.

"We are now partners with a team in Dublin and will start installer roadshows.

"We have just set up the Solar Power business in the Republic of Ireland for the installation arm of the company."

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