Green light for 80k solar panel energy site – and more to come

AMBITIOUS PLANS TO develop one of the largest solar energy farms in the country on a site close to Urquhart has been given council planning approval.

The proposals by Elgin Energy to turn the 47-hectare site at Speyslaw into a home for up to 80,000 solar panels, a substation and 20 invertor stations were agree on Tuesday by members of the planning and regulatory services committee.

Also approved for the site was a CCTV camera system to monitor the development which will be bound by a 2.5metre high deer fence. The same firm has plans to create a similar development on the former RAF and RN Airfield nearby at Milltown.

All cabling for the development will be underground, allowing sheep to graze around the panels while no trees or woodland will be removed or altered – although additional planting has been proposed by the developers.

The Irish-based firm, a leader in solar developments of this kind, have been granted permission that is valid for 30 years from the first time energy is exported from the site. After that period, the developer has one year to decommission the works and restore the site to a condition agree with the council.

Among the conditions attached to the planning permission is the submission of regular reports to the council on the energy generated by the solar farm – and, before works begin, the council is to approve the make and model of the solar panels to be used.

The council must also approve a draft decommissioning and restoration plan, to make sure there is no lasting negative environmental impact, while a habitat management plan will also be approved by the council before works can begin.

Planning and regulatory services committee chair, Councillor Claire Feaver, commented: “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.”