Could sunshine take the heat off farmers?

Solar Farm construction
Solar Farm construction
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A 12 acre solar park, with 10,000 solar panels at Grantshouse could become the region’s latest renewable energy scheme.

Green Switch Solutions are currently investigating the possibility of the 2MWp solar park on grazing land at Monashee Mews Farm, Grantshoues, and have asked Scottish Borders Council whether an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed prior to a planning application being submitted.

Scotland’s first solar park, at nearby Dunbar, has just been given planning permission and the UK’s first such park is expected to be completed in Leicestershire next month.

Met Office figures indicate that south east Scotland gets an average of 1400 hours of sunshine a year.

Ken Ross, chairman of Scots Renewable Energy who is advising on the Dunbar project, said: “Given East Lothian’s sunny micro-climate, a solar energy farm would be the best option and would make this one of the first in Scotland.”

A spokesperson for Green Switch, who are looking at the Grantshouse site, explained: “We ran a marketing campaign and the landowner got in touch with us and we ran a report on its radiation levels.

“We have made the request for a screening opinion which means that the owner and ourselves have come to an agreement in principle, but it depends on whether we get a positive response from planning and can get a connection to the National Grid.

“If we find out there are issues with the land, for example archeological, then we would put it to one side because it’s quite a lengthy process.”

They also need to establish that the energy produced at the solar park could be fed into the National Grid quite close by otherwise the cost becomes prohibitive.

If the Monashee Mews Farm solar park reaches the planning application stage, they will be looking to install 10,000 solar panels, approximately one metre off the ground, with a maximum height of three metres.

In their request for a formal screening opinion from Scottish Borders Council Green Switch say that “the site has been identified as having good potential for PV (photovoltaics) generation due to its location”.

They add that while the proposal will have an impact on the land its unlikely to be significant, the effects expected to be minimal, both visually and environmentally.

The Scottish Government does not have an official target for solar power but their advice to planning authorities is that redundant brownfield sites or poor quality agricultural land could be considered for solar parks.

A potential annual income of £14,000 an acre from solar farms makes it a tempting proposition for farmers, many of whom are under financial pressure.