Planning permission has been granted for Northern Ireland’s first large scale solar farm. The 5.1 MW facility, being developed by BNRG Northern Power, will be located in East Down on the outskirts of Downpatrick and will deliver an investment of £6m and create around 50 jobs during construction and up to five long-term jobs.
According to Sean McMullan, Senior Project Manager BNRG Northern Power, the new solar farm, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) park, will be capable of generating sufficient electricity to power 1500 homes during its 30 year proposed life-span. County Down-based Mr McMullan said BNRG was delighted to become the first company to gain planning permission for a solar farm of this scale in Northern Ireland.
The 27-acre solar farm at Tullynaskeagh Road, Downpatrick and will be connected to the nearby NIE sub-station and national grid. It will take just four months to install the 20,300 photovoltaic ground-mounted panels and related equipment. The height of the panels above ground level will approximate to normal ceiling height.
BNRG has also revealed it has a committed pipeline of similar projects in East Down which would bring its initial combined investment to £36m and create 50 ongoing jobs in construction and an additional 30 new posts in administration and maintenance. However, the hope is those figures could almost double over 24 months. “There is currently only around 5MW solar energy produced in Northern Ireland from mainly small scale roof mounted panels and none from large scale ground mounted solar farms. By comparison England has approaching 2000MW from roof mounted panels and 1000MW from ground mounted and we believe there is considerable potential for large-scale solar generation here, particularly as a genuine alternative to other forms of renewable energy generation such as wind.
“Solar PV benefits from being easy to install, enjoys widespread public support and has a major role in connecting individuals, communities and businesses with future deployment. The granting of approval for this scheme is great news for Northern Ireland.”
Mr McMullan said he would like to thank the local politicians all of whom had supported BNRG’s planning application. “All of the political representatives were supportive of our proposals and understood clearly the benefits of large-scale solar power generation.”
BNRG’s professional team are all from Northern Ireland. Tom Stokes of TSA Planning Consultants who led the planning application commended the Northern Ireland Planning Service for the “efficient and effective way” the process was handled. “This was a new type of application for the Planning Service but permission was granted without any undue delays which is a credit to the planning officials.”