Gozo solar farm could power 150 households

An agricultural area in Gozo’s Ghajnsielem, the size of Floriana’s granaries, is being earmarked for the construction of greenhouses with solar panels

The greenhouses will include 3,080 solar panels with an approximate output of 1.6 million kWh per year
The greenhouses will include 3,080 solar panels with an approximate output of 1.6 million kWh per year

An agricultural area in Gozo’s Ghajnsielem, the size of Floriana’s granaries, is being earmarked for the construction of greenhouses with solar panels.

The latest plans, presented by Brian Azzopardi on behalf of German owner Udo Witzke, are being recommended for approval by the Planning Authority’s directorate.

The site lies on Gozo’s largest agricultural plain, and the solar farm will be erected 55 metres off the Mgarr road, one of Gozo’s busiest roads connecting the harbour to the town of Victoria. The visual impact will be mitigated through the planting of around 125 almond, olive and carob trees.

The greenhouses will include 3,080 solar panels with an approximate output of 1.6 million kWh per year, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of around 350 people.

The latest plans foresee three greenhouses of 1,959sq.m, 1,536sq.m and 6,489sq.m respectively with the largest one located further away from the road.

The PA’s policy regulating solar panels limits these solar farms to disused quarries and the roofs of existing buildings. But the project exploits a loophole found in the solar farms policy which states that “large open spaces within appropriate zones, where dual use of the site is reasonably feasible” can be considered. The same policy, however, states that “as far as possible, solar farms should be sited in the vicinity of urban areas, or areas with high electrical consumption.” The policy also precludes solar farms in the open countryside.

According to the project’s development statement, the greenhouses will ensure profitability and better value added, avoiding fragmentation of the holding.

Presently the land is being used to grow crops for animal fodder, which is considered as an inefficient crop. “Given the return that this crop provides, the low quality and low nutritive value of the fodder produced in Malta, and the declining prices that this produce commands, this activity can hardly be considered a best use for the site in question.”

The document claims the project envisions the transformation of this underutilised tract of good quality agricultural land into a “state-of-the-art agricultural production” facility.

The Environment and Resources Authority has exempted the project from an Environment Impact Assessment, because the impacts do not warrant an EIA as long as various mitigation measures are duly enforced.

The PA’s advisory panel on design issues had expressed concern about the impact of the proposed greenhouses and overlying PV panels on the open landscape.

Other pending applications for massive solar greenhouses include a 9,800sq.m proposed in Bur il-Kbir in Siggiewi by Puglisi Company Limited and a 10,060sq.m farm consisting of 3,222 solar panels proposed by Mark Gaffarena on farmland in Ghar ir-Ram, Qormi.

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