Renewable energy operator Gaelectric wants to build a solar farm capable of powering up to 1,175 homes on a 37 acre site in Slaghtmanus but the firm have been told to be careful of a Stone Age tomb on the development site while some nearby residents don’t want the renewable energy plant to be built at all.
Gaelectric have just submitted an environmental statement outlining their plans to build the farm at the top of the Monnaboy Road.
“The main part of the site, where the solar panels will be located, comprises four fields to the east of Monnaboy Road,” it explains.
“All of the fields are set back a significant distance from the public road and currently comprise grassland,” it adds.
According to the developers the farm will have a total generational capacity of up to 4,900 megawatts. It will consist of solar panels mounted on metal frames along with the associated infrastructure.
It will be located right next to a wind farm and Gaelectric says it will use some existing infrastructure.
The energy company argues that the development will be a win-win in terms of energy production and environmental benefits.
“It will produce approximately 4,400 megawatt/hours (MWh) of electricity per year, which is enough to power up to 1,175 homes.
“It will reduce the production of carbon dioxide through conventional fossil fuel burnt by power stations by approximately 2,274 kilograms (2.3 tons) per annum, which equates to 68,220 kilograms (68.2 tons) over the lifetime of the solar farm,” the statement explains.
But not everyone is so sure.
The Department of the Environment (DoE) has warned: “There are a number of sites and monuments recorded within the environs of the application site, in particular a wedge tomb dating to the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age period located under 100 metres from the southern boundary of the application site. “
And three people, including two local residents, have objected.
For example, Terry and Paula McDermott wrote: “Allowing a 25 acres industrial size complex of solar panels plus infrastructure to be built on the same hillside as the already existing turbines, regardless of its dubious effectiveness due to frequent mist and fog, is only adding to the industrialisation of the landscape and all the environmental and stressed related pressures that this entails in what is an area of outstanding natural beauty.”
Ryan and Caroline McWilliams also objected on a number of grounds, arguing that “the proposal is so large it will undoubtedly dominate the entire area and would be visible for miles” and that “the reflection and glare of the panels would be immense.”
Malcolm Samuel, from Coleraine, stated: “I think we should use temperate land on the Earth for food, timber and wildlife production not for photovoltaics.
“I am not opposed to some roofs and desert areas being used for electric production and the use of PVCs on some sites would be more valuable than solar farms in temperate areas.”