Good news for green energy enthusiasts in Scotland, because Moray Council just granted planning permission for the country's largest solar farm. Once built, it should have around 80,000 solar panels.
Now there will inevitably some sniggering and sarcastic comments about the usefulness of a solar farm in Scotland, but we should all agree that this is a good thing. The new Speyslaw farm will take up 47 hectares of land with a 20MW capacity. That's 7MW higher that Scotland's current biggest solar farm at the Errol Estate in Perthshire.
That figure is nothing compared to some of the other solar farms around the world (India's Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park is currently assumed to be the largest with 950MW of active panels, and another 50MW under construction), and it's considerably smaller than the largest farm in the UK (the 72.2MW Shotwick Solar Park), but let's not be deterred. Once Speyslaw is up and running it'll provide enough energy to power 3,500 homes.
A starting date for construction has yet to be set, but the council has granted permission for the farm to remain in place for 30 years. Once those years are up Elgin Energy will have a year to decommission the site and return the land to a state deemed fit by the council.
That might not seem like a long time, but bear in mind that nuclear power stations generally only last 40 years - and are considerably harder to decommission. Plus in 30 years time current solar power tech should be hilariously obsolete.
Since the farm's cabling will be underground, the land will also continue to be used as grazing for local sheep. That means there shouldn't be a huge impact on the local ecosystem.
Scottish Renewables policy manager Stephanie Clark said:
"Large-scale solar has played a part in Scotland since 2005 and we are now beginning to see more applications for commercial projects coming forward. North east Scotland's clear skies and longer daylight hours mean the area is attractive to developers.
Large schemes like this one are able to use that resource to provide clean electricity which will help Scotland meet its climate change targets."
Elgin Energy, which already has a combined 250MW portfolio of solar farms across the UK and Ireland, also has plans for another, larger solar farm in the Moray area. It's already started seeking planning permission for a 50MW farm to be built on the former site of RAF Miltown. [BBC News]