Public meeting over proposed solar farm at Magheralane Road

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A public meeting is to be held in Randalstown next week to discuss plans for a solar farm on the outskirts of the town.

Lightsource Renewable Energy is inviting residents to find out more about proposals to install a solar farm on land east of Magheralane Road, Randalstown.

Initial plans for the site will be displayed at the community information evening at Neillsbrook Community Centre on Tuesday, December 8.

There will be two drop-in sessions at 2pm until 4pm and 5.30pm until 8pm.

Lightsource say the 25 Megawatts Peak (MWp) solar farm would generate locally-sourced energy for around 7,700 homes, whilst saving 13,200 of carbon emissions every year – equivalent to taking 2,900 large family cars off the roads.

The land on which the proposed solar farm would be installed was formerly used for peat extraction.

Although the peat has already been extracted from this area, Lightsource commissioned a habitat survey to assess the ecological value of the site, which concluded that the site is of low ecological value, and existing habitats will not be disturbed.

Once installed, the solar panels reach a maximum height of 2.5 metres, so are easily screened from the immediate area beyond established woodland which surrounds the site.

All existing vegetation on and around the site will be retained and managed as part of the project and Lightsource is investigating different options to mitigate any potential views from outside the surrounding area.

Lightsource’s Conor McGuigan said: “The vast majority of the site at Magheralane Road is very well screened by trees around the site.

“At present there is one isolated view into the site from the south west and we are currently looking at ways to reduce these views, including new planting or landscaping with peat bunds.

“We work closely with ecologists and landscape consultants, while taking on board feedback from local residents and councillors to minimise any views and maximise benefit to the surrounding community.

“The site will remain in operation for at least 25 years, so we want to work with the local community to ensure that we are the best neighbours that we can be. We’re very keen to hear from local people and any ideas that they have for the site.”

Mr McGuigan added: “The Northern Ireland Executives’ target is to meet 40% of our energy demand from renewable sources by 2020.

“The current figure stands at 13.6%, so there is still considerable work that must be done and solar energy will have a big part to play in helping to achieve this goal.”

Residents wishing to view the initial proposal in more detail can visit the Planning Portal at: www.lightsource-re.co.uk, click ‘In-House Planning’ and type the site name ‘Magheralane’ into the search box.

An online feedback form is also available on the page. Anyone who can’t attend the community event is encouraged to visit the website where they can make suggestions on the proposals to the Lightsource Planning team.