Bombardier given green light for 3.8 MW PV installation in Belfast

Solar power has been given lift-off at the Bombardier wing-assembly plant in Belfast after the company was granted planning permission to install a 3.8 MW PV array on the factory roof.

The Canadian air and transport technology giant has recently embarked on a dedicated renewable energy strategy designed to bring down the costs of its power bills, particularly in Europe. Bombardier currently pays three-times more for electricity in Belfast than it does at its sister plants in North America.

The roof of the plant in the capital of Northern Ireland measures five hectares, which is the equivalent of six soccer pitches. Once installed, the rooftop array will join a 500 kW biogas unit at the site, which will be used to power the factory’s day-to-day operations.

Permission for the PV array was granted by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Mark Durkan, who remarked that Bombardier’s commitment to renewable energy was setting a great example for other local companies to follow.

"Renewable energy is generating a real win-win outcome – it represents an opportunity for industry to improve its competitiveness while helping reduce its environmental impact," said the minister. "These applications by Bombardier to secure more sustainable technologies will in turn contribute to key Programme for Government targets for increasing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"This will assist Northern Ireland in making the transition towards a low carbon society."

According to the U.K.’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), Northern Ireland installed three times as many solar panels in 2013 when compared to 2012.

Recent initiatives to offer free solar installations to homeowners have been mooted across the country, while the commercial solar sector received a welcome boost late last year when Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd – the U.K.’s leading installer of solar power – announced that it hopes to invest more than $160 million in the development of 20 PV sites across Northern Ireland over the next 24 months.

Also this week, a 27-acre solar farm estimated to cost some $11 million was given planning permission in Northern Ireland. The installation will be owned by BNRG Northern Power and will consist of 20,300 ground-mounted panels. Once complete, the plant – which is to be located near to the town of Downpatrick – will generate enouch clean energy to power 1,500 local homes annually.