Scotland's largest solar farm officially opens in Tayside

THE largest solar farm to be constructed in Scotland '“ covering 70 acres and providing power to 3,500 homes '“ is now officially up and running

Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse officially opened Scotlands largest solar farm on the Errol Estate in Tayside today. Picture: Phil Hannah

The large-scale, 13MegaWatt scheme, which includes 55,000 panels, has been constructed on land at the Errol Estate in Tayside.

It went live last month, but has now been formally launched by Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish government’s minister for business, innovation and energy.

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Errol estate was one of the first locations in Scotland to be identified as a potential solar farm site, with the land being promoted for development by Thomas Macmillan of property firm Savills in 2011.

Recent cuts by Westminster have brought uncertainty to the Solar PV sector, just as it was beginning to gain momentum in Scotland, according to Savills.

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However, the firm claims this project is proof that large scale solar PV systems work well on the east coast of Scotland and they are continuing to source solar sites across Scotland, with a view to developing schemes that are financially viable without subsidy support.

Elgin Energy secured planning consent for the scheme, and was responsible for designing the scheme and grid connection.

Canadian Solar have since built out the solar farm and are operating the project.

Savills Energy Director Thomas MacMillan said: “We are delighted to see this project come to fruition with power now being generated.

“It has been four years in the making and proves that large-scale solar in Scotland continues to be commercially viable.

“Solar technology has a far greater role to play in Scotland’s energy mix than many people might realise.

“Due to reducing installation costs, and a climate of support from Scottish Government, we are continuing to see an appetite from developers to take forward new development sites, even with reducing subsidy support from the Westminster government.”

According to Savills Energy, solar panel installation costs have reduced by approximately 50% over the last three years and the wholesale price of electricity is anticipated to increase in the longer term even though we are seeing a short term dip at the moment.

The Scottish Government announced it will retain a grandfathering guarantee for key policies supporting investment in solar farms, despite Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposals to end the protection in England and Wales.

Mr Macmillan said: “This announcement came at a crucial time for Errol, and it was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.”

Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am pleased and excited to be here today to open Scotland’s largest solar farm, which will provide power for more than 3,500 homes.

“This very substantial and impressive project is proof that large scale solar photovoltaic systems work well on the east coast of Scotland and I am also greatly encouraged that a variety of organisations are continuing to source solar sites across the country, with a view to developing financially viable schemes.

“The Scottish Government is developing a new, overarching Energy Strategy for Scotland, which means developing a ‘whole systems approach’ considering Scotland’s energy supply and consumption as equal priorities, building a genuinely integrated approach to power, transport and heat, and solar will play an important role within the energy mix.”

Lang Banks, director of environmental group WWF Scotland, said: “Perthshire and other parts of Scotland may seem like unlikely places for solar power, but if you look at solar maps Scotland receives about 80 per cent of the solar energy of Germany - the current world leader.

“So, there’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t be deploying more of this technology here to help avoid climate-damaging emissions being emitted every year.”