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Errol Estate, Perthshire
Errol Estate, Perthshire
Scotland’s largest solar farm came on line in March, producing enough electricity to power 3,500 homes from 55,000 solar panels sited on land at the Errol Estate in Perthshire.
The 13MW scheme, which covers 72 acres, is the result of four years of planning and is a major milestone in the development of large-scale solar projects in Scotland.
The solar facility was designed by the developer Elgin Energy, who leases the land from the Errol Estate, and it was built by Canadian Solar, which now has responsibility for running the farm.
Thomas McMillan, Savills Energy Director, was involved in the promotion and planning of the Errol Solar Farm and said that the site is ideal for the production of solar energy. He explained: “For a solar farm of this size, you need south-facing or flat land, and also a topography that helps to hide it from view. The visual impact was a big issue in the planning stages, as well as issues such as right of way and designated buildings, but we were able to find the best location for the solar farm on the estate to satisfy the planners.
“The site was also near an electricity substation to connect the national grid – anything more than 5km from such a facility would affect the financial viability of a project of this scale.”
Even though it was not a requirement of the planning process, the project team organised a public exhibition about the proposed solar farm at a local hall to encourage community engagement. Full planning consent was applied for in February 2014 and was approved four months later. Construction work started in January 2016.
The east coast of Scotland is particularly suitable for solar energy generation as the levels of daylight (solar irradiation) are better than other areas, and due to the improved sensitivity of modern solar photovoltaic cells, solar farms are able to generate electricity all year round – daylight is the crucial factor, not sunshine or high temperatures.
The solar panels are fairly robust, so are expected to last for more than 25 years before serious deterioration, but the inverters – which transform the direct current from the panels into alternating current suitable for the grid – are likely to need replacing every 10 years. A flock of sheep will be used to graze the land to keep grass and weeds from encroaching on the panel structures.
Thomas believes that many more large-scale projects will become cost effective in the near future. He said: “With the reducing costs of installation, and a climate of support from the Scottish Government, we are continuing to see an appetite from developers to take forward new development sites. Solar technology has a far greater role to play in Scotland’s energy mix than many people might realise.”