Scotland has given the green light for its largest solar power project to date at the 47-hectare site in Speyslaw, near Urquhart.

Largest solar power project in Scotland

Moray Council granted permission for the 20-megawatt project to Elgin Energy. It will cost an estimated £20 million to construct. Featuring roughly 80,000 panels covering an area the size of 40 football pitches, it will become the largest solar power project in Scotland. The project surpasses the 13-MW farm at the Errol Estate in Perthshire, also owned and operated by Elgin Energy.

“Win-win situation”

Councillor Claire Feaver, chair of Moray Council’s Planning & Regulatory Services Committee, said: “A significant amount of renewable energy will be generated by this solar farm over the next 30 years. The opportunity to continue grazing on the land, together with the Habitat Management Plan, will maintain and enhance the diverse range of species in and around the site. I see this as a win-win.”

The permission allows for the construction of a substation, 20 invertor stations and a CCTV camera system. The site will be bound by a 2.5-metre-high deer fence. All cabling will be underground to allow the land to be grazed. Permission for the solar farm is valid for 30 years, from the first time energy is exported from the site. After the permission has expired, the developer will have one year to decommission the works and restore the site to a condition agreed with the council.

Elgin Energy stated: “Existing field boundaries will not be disturbed, and mature hedgerows will provide generous screening for the site. Elgin Energy has contacted those neighbours in the immediate vicinity of the site and has offered to answer any queries which might arise. The land will remain in agricultural use in the form of sheep grazing while being used for the dual purpose of generating low-carbon renewable energy.”

Elgin Energy’s portfolio

The company has an operating portfolio of 24 solar power projects in the UK and Ireland. This portfolio has a combined capacity of more than 250 MW, with a further 1,000 MW of projects at various stages of planning. It is also seeking permission for a much larger 50-MW solar project at a former RAF Milltown airfield, north east of Elgin. A decision on that project is expected next year. Elgin however remains confident, claiming it has a 97% success rate with planning application to date.

Large-scale solar power helps meet climate change targets

Scottish Renewables, speaking to the BBC, welcomed the Speyslaw project decision. “Large-scale solar power has played a part in Scotland since 2005, and we are now beginning to see more applications for commercial projects coming forward,” said Policy manager Stephanie Clark. “North east Scotland’s clear skies and longer daylight hours mean the area is attractive to developers. Large schemes like this one are able to use that resource to provide clean electricity, which will help Scotland meet its climate change targets. Further progress in the solar power sector, however, depends on the level of support provided by the UK government. At present, both the Feed-in Tariff and the Contracts for Difference schemes remain the subject of much uncertainty.”

Source: Industrial Info Resources – 22 August 2017