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UK solar farm developer plans 20 Northern Ireland sites

The UK’s biggest developer of solar farms has said it wants to spend £100m developing 20 sites in Northern Ireland over the next two years, the BBC has reported.

Lightsource Renewable Energy is currently consulting on plans for two large scale farms in County Antrim and one in County Down.

One of the sites is 35 acres of land at Aldergrove near Belfast International Airport. The company has said it could generate enough power for more than 1,000 homes.

The two other sites currently under consideration are at Upper Ballinderry, near Lisburn, and Ballyhornan near Downpatrick.

The London-based company has developed about 75 solar farms to date.

Its development director Conor McGuigan is from Belfast. He said there was a lot of potential for utility-scale solar farms in Northern Ireland.

Once a suitable site is acquired, rows of solar panels are erected on staging.

The company says no concrete foundations are required and the whole installation can be removed at a future date. Lightsource Renewable Energy commits to the site for 25 years.

The company is backed by private investors who will get a return from green government subsidies which are guaranteed for 20 years.

In England there has been a solar rush - counties like Dorset, Devon and Cornwall have seen a rise in applications for ever bigger installations.

Some environmental campaigners there are concerned about turning agricultural land over to generating power.

Lightsource Renewable Energy said that the land can continue to be used for grazing and in areas where the solar farms are given over to nature they have greatly enhanced biodiversity.

The company also said that meeting UK government targets of 22GW of electricity from solar over the next 15 years would only require use of about 0.3 per cent of all agricultural land.

The Northern Ireland Executive wants 40 per cent of NI energy to come from alternative sources by 2020.

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