Solar farm policy ‘vacuum’ - McKay

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the Environment Minister needs to urgently address the lack of policy concerning solar farms.

He was speaking after meeting members of the Kells Vocal group about plans for a 200 acre solar farm in North Antrim.

He said: “There is clearly a huge deficit in terms of planning policy and solar farms here in the north. This is very new to many communities in places like North Antrim and I am greatly concerned that companies will be and are pushing these applications through before policy has been developed to address concerns such as landscape impact.

“The Minister has said that he will introduce guidelines for solar farm applications but we have yet to see anything being brought forward. Scotland already has policies in place to deal with these and have decommissioning bonds for such developments.

“It is not fair to rural dwellers who have to jump through hoops for a modest home in the countryside that these applications can be submitted for 200 acre sites without having the same checks in place.”

His call comes after a planning application was submitted by Elgin Energy EsCo Ltd for their huge Solar PV development at Kells.

The application, which was lodged on Friday, centres on lands adjacent to Whappstown Road, to the east of the villages of Kells and Connor.

The scheme has attracted a mixed response from local people with some vehemently opposed and others in favour of the project.

Elgin Energy Managing Director Ronan Kilduff said: “Solar PV is a proven technology which converts daylight into direct current in a green, zero carbon efficient way.

“The photovoltaic panels will continue to generate electricity every day of year for the project lifespan of 25 years.

“The site benefits from existing topography and landscaping that will assist in naturally screening the development and also benefits from good access and proximity to national grid infrastructure.”

It was pointed out that the final site layout has been refined through an extensive consultation process with the local community and stakeholders and that some 569 jobs, both directly and indirectly, will be introduced across the installation and operational phases of the project.

It was also pointed out that solar farms are a temporary structure built within a four month window and are completely reversible at the end of their project lifetime.