A dairy company in Northern Ireland is expecting to make “significant” and “impactful” savings from a new solar farm planned for 2017, which is thought will be the largest scheme of its kind to be built on the island.
Dale Farm will work with CES Energy to begin construction of the 5MW private wire development in Cookstown, County Tyrone in mid-2017, with an aim to complete the project in the autumn. It will connect directly into the business’ private network at its cheese processing facility in Dunmanbridge.
The company says the project will be the largest power purchase agreement (PPA) project on the entire island after Lightsource completed a 4.83MW farm for Belfast Airport earlier this year.
The new scheme is expected to supply 20% of the facility’s power needs and according to Chris McAlinden, group operations director at Dale Farm, the savings resulting from the solar farm will be “fairly significant over the term of 20 years; it’s fairly impactful for the business.”
In addition to the energy cost savings, the scheme will deliver considerable environmental gains for Dale Farm, saving 2,460 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Group chief executive Nick Whelan said: “Dale Farm is delighted to be leading the way in the global dairy industry by powering our site in County Tyrone with green energy. This will not only be the largest of its kind on the island of Ireland – we understand it will be one of the most significant solar projects supplying renewable energy to dairy producers worldwide.
“Our core objective is to ensure that we carry on building a strong and viable business for the future, which we can continue to be proud of, and this new development is most welcome.”
The project is also being used to overcome grid constraints in the area around the Dunmanbridge plant, where a shortage of available electricity is holding back Dale Farm’s growth plans.
Speaking to Clean Energy News, McAlinden explained: “We have a current MIC [maximum import capacity] which we have struggled to get increased. Our local provider, Northern Ireland Electricity Networks, has said we can upgrade the entire infrastructure but it’s going to be a cost to us.
“Obviously we’re not happy with that because we’d ultimately pay for the grid upgrade and the electricity price that we pay as well so there’s a real issue and it’s not just for us. It’s a political issue here with regards to how we develop that infrastructure locally. That’s really holding our growth plans back which has led us to look at things like solar to try and offset the reliance on the grid.”
Dale Farm actively looks at a variety of generation technologies including wind and hydro however from a planning perspective, McAlinden said solar proved to be the most appropriate for the Cookstown site and the easiest to gain approval for.