Solar farm plans for Drumnakelly

Solar farm plans for Drumnakelly

27 March 2024

NEWRY, Mourne and Down Council is to press ahead with innovative plans to generate energy from two of its landfill sites which closed a number of years ago.

Mini solar farms are to be developed at the Drumanakelly landfill site near Seaforde and the Aughnagun site in Newry which have the potential to generate a significant cash windfall to help reduce rates.

Solar panels will harness the sun’s energy to produce electricity which will be sold to the National Grid.

Agreement to establish the solar farms came at a recent meeting of the local authority’s Environment Committee following an Alliance proposal to generate large amounts of renewable energy and substantial income to the benefit of the ratepayer.

Downpatrick councillor, Cadogan Enright, said the solar farms will generate £250,000 for the local authority during their first year of operation at the two sites.

He said the initial investment will pay for itself within five years and provide the council with a £400,000 income.

“The project is one of 10 ‘green economy’ projects Alliance has been campaigning for since 2019,” Cllr Enright explained.

“These sorts of investments are commonly used in Great Britain by councils to reduce rates and fight global warming. We are delighted to have led Newry Mourne and Down Council to be the first council in Northern Ireland to start profitably tackling climate change. “

Newcastle’s councillor, Jill Truesdale, said the green energy investment project is equivalent to reducing the rates by half a per cent, suggesting there are many other sites that Alliance has identified for PV farms that, in total, could raise up to £3m pounds per annum in savings or additional revenues that can help tackle rates bills.”

Cllr Tierna Kelly, who is a member of the local authority’s finance committee, said the solar farm project will “transform expensive to maintain brownfield legacy waste dumps into serious income streams” that can help reduce the pressure to increase rates.

“We have presented 10 ‘green economy’ projects to the council’s strategic finance committee over the past five years and these two are the first two to be realised.”

Cllr David Lee-Surginor revealed the prospect that the council is also planning to install Tesla-style battery farms at the same time as this waste-dump investment project is “likely to multiply the financial benefit threefold”

He added: “This is because the grid operator and Northern Ireland Electricity will be able to draw down the renewable energy as and when it is most needed, rather than during daylight hours only.  “As a local businessman, I see this project demonstrating how the green economy can deliver for council the decarbonisation of power profitably to produce cheap energy locally and boost our economy with local jobs.”

South Down MLA, Patrick Brown, thanked Cllr Enright for leading on the renewable energy proposal. 

He added: ”This campaign goes back to before I was elected as an MLA for South Down in 2022 and when I was a councillor working with both Cadogan and Andrew McMurray to keep the pressure on to deliver these savings for ratepayers.”