A proposed £5m investment in solar energy has been described as a “big moment” for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Councillor Lindsay Millar was commenting after MEA’s planning committee approved an application by Red Brae PV for a ground mounted solar PV farm on lands east and south of No. 51 Red Brae Road, Carrickfergus.
Members were informed by principal planner Gary McGuinness that it was the first solar farm application to be assessed by the MEA Planning Department and proposed 1900 panels on a 8.75 hectare site.
The development would generate approximately five mega watts of electricity annually which would equate to enough to power some 2,000 homes, the committee was told.
Mr McGuinness added that no objections had been received to the application which planners were of the opinion to approve, subject to conditions.
Responding, Cllr AP Wilson pointed out: “Solar farms sometimes cause controversy in other areas.” He asked: “Why is this one for Mid and East Antrim Council to decide on rather than the DoE (Department of Environment)?” Mr McGuinness replied that it was down to generating capacity which would have to be much larger than five MW to warrant the DoE’s involvement.
Addressing the committee on behalf of the applicants, David Donaldson said the proposed solar farm represented a £5million investment with energy sold going directly into the grid. He said the site was ideal for such a development and had been carefully chosen being “well away from other properties and well screened”.
He said the solar panels would be 2.5m at their highest and 1.5m at their lowest and that the land could be grazed after construction.
He also stated that his clients intend to use local contractors during the construction works.
The committee unanimously accepted the recommendation to approve on the proposal of Cllr Beth Adger, seconded by Cllr Millar.