Moray Council has granted planning permission for what will be Scotland’s largest solar farm.
Councillors approved Elgin Energy’s development of the 47-hectare Speyslaw site near Urquhart, which could see around 80,000 solar panels installed.
“All cabling will be underground, meaning sheep will be able to graze around the panels, and no trees, hedges or woodland will be removed or altered,” said Moray Council.
“However, additional planting has been proposed.
“Permission for the solar farm is valid for 30 years, from the first time energy is exported from the site.
“After the permission has expired, the developer will have one year to decommission the works and restore the site to a condition agreed with the council.”
Among the conditions attached to the planning permission is the submission of regular reports to the council on the energy generated by the solar farm.
A Habit Management Plan will also be approved by the council before works can begin.
Cllr Claire Feaver, chair of Moray Council’s Planning & Regulatory Services Committee, said: “A significant amount of renewable energy will be generated by this solar farm over the next 30 years.
“The opportunity to continue grazing on the land, together with the Habitat Management Plan, will maintain and enhance the diverse range of species in and around the site.
“I see this as a win-win.”
Scottish Renewables’ policy manager Stephanie Clark said: “Large-scale solar has played a part in Scotland since 2005 and we are now beginning to see more applications for commercial projects coming forward.
“North east Scotland’s clear skies and longer daylight hours mean the area is attractive to developers.
“Large schemes like this one are able to use that resource to provide clean electricity which will help Scotland meet its climate change targets.
“Further progress in the solar sector, however, depends on the level of support provided by the UK government through the Feed-in Tariff and the Contracts for Difference schemes, both of which remain the subject of much uncertainty.”