15 hectare solar farm granted permission

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A solar farm capable of supplying 1,500 houses with electricity has been given Planning approval for Finvoy Road in Raskarkin.

The 15.6 hectare site will be sited at lands west of 289 Finvoy Road and was given the go-ahead by members of Causeway Coast and Glens Council Planning Committee on Wednesday.

Planners said that there had been one objection from neighbours on the grounds of glare from the solar panels.

The representation also sited industrialisation of the land, the scheme not being in keeping with the rural area, frequency distortion generation and electromagnetic hypersensitivity and electromagnetic radiation and uncontrolled expansion of the countryside.

The proposal has a life expectancy of around 30 years during which time the land will remain and can continue to be used for agriculture in the form of sheep grazing.

Planners said that the main considerations in the proposal related to the principle of the development in the location, residential amenity, visual amenity and landscape character, biodiversity, nature conservation, local natural resources and public access to the couuntryside.

Aidan Collins from the applicants Lightsource Renewable Energy addressed the meeting saying that the site will create 5.88 megawatts of energy, enough to provide 1,500 houses with electricity.

“That’s 2.5 tonnes of carbon emissions saved,” he said.

“We have gone to great endeavours to minimise the visual impact,” he said, adding that the company had been particularly “mindful of the sensitivity” of the proximity of the cemetery to the site.

He also explained that the company will plant indigenous trees, sew wild seed meadows and install bat boxes.

Garvagh DUP councillor Sam Cole asked if the company was being “mischievous” with its claims as nothing could be generated if the sun was not shining or at night, and there is currently no way of storing excess energy,

However, Mr Collins said that the ideal conditions for solar power generation are not in fact, direct sunlight, but brightness.

He added that a cold, bright February day is better for generating electricity.

He said that the yield from solar panels in Northern Ireland is 70% better than what panels in Madrid would achieve due to direct sunlight,

Members of the Planning committee voted to accept the recommendation to grant permission.