Solar farm on 153-acre site gets green light

An engineer works on the installation of a photovoltaic panel array. Picture: Getty
An engineer works on the installation of a photovoltaic panel array. Picture: Getty
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ONE of Scotland’s largest solar energy farms has been given planning permission, in a move that will bring power to more than 5,000 homes.

Some 90,000 photovoltaic panel (PV) modules will be placed on a 153-acre greenfield site at East Ballochy, between Brechin and Montrose, which will continue to be used to graze sheep.

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The application on behalf of the Stracathro and Careston Estate was approved by Angus Council on Thursday.

Scotland already has 116 mega­watts of solar capacity from more than 31,000 installations, which consist mainly of panels on the roofs of homes.

Project associate Borealis Energy said the “relatively remote location” was an ideal place for development. A spokesman said: “Stracathro and Careston Estates working with Borealis Energy has engaged with local residents on the estate and in the area surrounding the site.

“All residents neighbouring the site or the farm access track have been consulted one-to-one, in most cases with a meeting and in the remainder with a phone call.”

No objections were made to the application, allowing council officers to grant approval without recourse to Angus Council’s development standards committee.

The site is within the elevated area of Muir of Pert in the lower South and North Esk valley, three miles north-east of Brechin and two miles north-west of Montrose, with the A90 to the north and Montrose Basin to the south.

Solar Trade Association spokesman James Beard said: “A solar farm, if it’s well-positioned and well-screened, is an asset.

“It’s all about how well-planned it is.”

Last month, a report by trade body Scottish Renewables showed renewable energy from wind farms, hydropower and other clean technologies produced nearly a third more power than nuclear, coal or gas in the first six months of the year, generating a record 10.4 terawatt hours during the period.

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Many homes and businesses have already taken the opportunity to use solar power to meet their everyday energy needs and keep costs down.

“Large-scale solar projects have played a part in Scotland since 2005, and we are now beginning to see more and more applications coming forward.

“Currently in Scotland we have 130mW of installed solar PV capacity, with a further 56mW in planning or awaiting construction, meaning the sector could grow by more than 40 per cent in the next few years.

“Developing solar power on a commercial scale is in its early stages in Scotland, but despite our dreich weather, this technology is not only viable, it also has the ability to make a good contribution to our overall renewable energy mix.”

Edinburgh College was first to open a solar farm, on a five-acre site at its Midlothian campus, in April 2013. It features more than 2,500 PV panels. The college said the scheme – designed and installed by SSE – would cut its fuel bills and help train engineering students and research.

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