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Brora among potential sites for Highland solar farms

By Scott Maclennan

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Five locations have been identified.
Five locations have been identified.

Hugely ambitious early Highland Council plans have identified five potential sites for solar farms to generate power for the north at Inverness, Wick, Brora and Tain, with a potential investment of more than £28 million needed.

But what the council is ultimately eyeing up is that it could make almost £120 million over the lifetimes of the projects while saving almost 18 million kilograms of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.

The proposals were given the go ahead at the council’s redesign board – a body set up to try and make the local authority more efficient.

According to the council the next steps will involve a two-phase approach with the first focusing on analysis on capacity and constraints and the second on engagement and environmental assessments.

Councillors agreed that a separate report will appear at Highland Council to proceed to the investment decision stage.

As the council owns a portfolio of commercial properties which are available for rent, there is an opportunity to develop a commercial onsite Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model across tenanted properties.

By developing a PPA agreement, the council could establish and operate a solar array – solar farm – on tenanted buildings in return for the agreed purchase of all energy generated.

A spokesman said: “Solar is deployed across the council estate comprising of systems directly connected to properties owned and operated by the council.

“Self-generation sites are best described as energy assets. Operated correctly they can demonstrate significant cost-saving benefits to the council.”

But going beyond solar panels on buildings would be the proposal to establish solar arrays at five sites.

They include one in Wick which could also be used for hydrogen. It would need £4.7 million to develop it, would cost another £2 million to operate it but it would deliver income over its lifetime of £19 million while saving CO2 2.6 million kg a year.

The Brora solar array is smaller with development costs of £1.5 million, operational costs of £9.8 million and a projected lifetime income of £6.2 million equalling an annual return on Investment of 15 per cent CO2 Savings of 882,757 kg a year.

Tain’s potential for a solar array would see an investment of £6.1 million, £2.1 in operation costs, projected lifetime income of £25.9 million, and saving CO2 of 3.4 million kg annually.

Inverness has two potential sites, one at Torvean and the other on the Longman. For Torvean, the development costs are £1.8 million, operational costs of £1 million and a projected lifetime income of £7.3 million and CO2 Savings of more than one million kg a year.

The Longman one would be the largest of them all with investment needed of £14.2 million, operational costs hitting £3.9 million, income of more than £60.7 million, equating to CO2 savings a year in kilograms of more than eight million.

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