Councillors have approved plans to lease land at Greenhags to Engenera Renewables Group for 35 years, subject to the firm securing necessary consents, including planning permission.
Council directors will finalise the terms of the lease, including the annual rental, but a report revealed the fee could be “somewhere in the region of £175,000-£250,000”. The figure would be “dependent upon the rates they can secure for generated electricity sold on the market”.
Engenera would generate 100 per cent renewable electricity at the 114-acre site, which it would then sell to the market. The 35 MWp solar farm would involve the installation of approximately 65,600 solar panels, each with a generating capacity of 535 Wp.
The site, directly north of the M77 and A77, is around 3.5km south-west of Newton Mearns and 6km west of Eaglesham. As a former landfill site, opportunities for the council to develop the land have been constrained due to “contamination issues”, the report added. “The main use over recent years has been for grazing lets which generate very little income.”
The decision to approve a proposal to lease the land was made at the final full council meeting before the local government elections.
Councillor Barbara Grant, who has now stepped down, said: “I do appreciate the council has got to find ways to generate more income because it’s very sadly lacking coming from Edinburgh but what I am concerned about is I don’t see any environmental report.
“Was there an assessment done? The report that we have is fairly basic stuff, it doesn’t really tell us anything about what we might expect, because this is a pretty vast area.”
East Renfrewshire’s environment director Andy Cahill said there had been some initial assessments and the plans will need “to pass through the relevant planning processes, road consent and/or grid connections”. “In terms of the planning application, they would have to submit considerable detailed environmental information regarding the entire project.”
Councillor Paul O’Kane, who is also no longer a councillor and represents the West Scotland region at Holyrood, asked whether the council could operate its own solar panels to “generate further income”. He also asked what community benefits would be included.
Mr Cahill said the income from grazing had been “absolutely minimal”. “There could be further benefits to the council involved in this project if we allowed expansion into battery use and storage.
“Solar panels are only useful for daylight energy, then they are no use overnight, but some other companies have developed further initiatives where you have battery storage so that the element of the electricity you don’t use during the day can be stored in batteries and used overnight.”
Having council-owned solar panels is a “possibility”, Mr Cahill added, but “given the current capital programme restrictions, our own staff and resources within the council, I am not sure that’s something that I could particularly develop”.
“I’ve already had discussions with the company who have assured me they will provide training and jobs, and re-training, and they will use local contractors as far as possible. They are highly aware of the need for community benefits.”