NI rejects nuclear power so needs a big investment in solar

Morning View
Morning View

Even Northern Ireland, one of the most sun-starved corners of Europe, is now turning towards major solar powered projects.

Planning approval has been granted for a 79-hectare site near Antrim town. This is the equivalent to 200 acres, which is a huge space for such a project.

There are good reasons why Stormont’s environment minister, Mark H Durkan, had to give “careful consideration to the impacts of the proposal on environmental interests”.

Large-scale solar farms can upset neighbouring communities. They can be every bit as visually intrusive as a large-scale industrial plant.

But there are nonetheless plots of land that are suited to solar farms, perhaps because they are hidden or perhaps because they are in an area that is already industrial.

There are other ways to harness solar on a major scale, for example over large rooftops.

If the Antrim plant achieves the level of energy output claimed for it, then the project is an illustration of the potential of solar, by generating annual energy needs for over 9,500 homes.

Already solar technology is such that solar panels could easily provide almost all Northern Ireland households with free hot water if they were attached to each property.

Germany now gets 7% of its energy from solar and there is no reason Northern Ireland cannot soon have the same.

Going forward, solar is going to be a crucial component in the global energy mix, with particular potential in places such as Africa.

Given that Northern Ireland has shown an utter refusal even to countenance nuclear power, despite the fact that it is almost carbon free, a massive investment in solar will offset some of the shortfall.

Solar farms, however, are likely to play less of a role in solar provision than the increasingly widespread use of a small number of panels in individual properties.