Mġarr farmers and residents in strong show against Electrofix solar farm appeal

Moviment Graffitti led a demonstration of Mġarr residents and farmers against the Electrofix solar farm that is appealing a planning refusal for its solar farm

Mgarr mayor Paul Vella (left) with Christine Cassar from Graffitti
Mgarr mayor Paul Vella (left) with Christine Cassar from Graffitti

Moviment Graffitti led a demonstration of Mġarr residents and farmers against the Electrofix solar farm that is appealing a planning refusal for a massive 6,000sq.m development on agricultural land.

Graffitti spokesperson Christine Cassar said demonstrators had two serious bones of contention about the Electrofix appeal. “Electrofix has presented new plans during this appeal, and to us this is unacceptable, because the appeal is a legal process dealing with the PA’s refusal of the original plans. New plans cannot be presented during an appeal.”

Electrofix has also claimed it had met or will meet ministries over the solar farm plans. “This would be unacceptable, since there is no place for government ministers in planning decisions,” Cassar said.

She also called out “dirty moves” by Electrofix by taking up one of the largest commercial stands at the government’s AgriFair. Agriculture minister Anton Refalo yesterday was present at the agro-industry fair, but stopped short of condemning such solar farms that take up agricultural land.

“Instead of clearly condemning the threat of these projects for farmers and communities, the minister beats about the bush when talking about this solar farm.”

Mġarr mayor Paul Vella addressed the crowd of some 100 residents said the fields surrounding the proposed area of development had been vacated by the farmers because they had been pushed out of these agricultural holdings.

“This project is massive, it affects our water resources, our heritage, and it encroaches into our village. We cannot impart any message of environmental protection to our children, with a project like this, with its visual impact, and the problems it creates to our farming community. There is no way we can allow this project in Malta,” Vella said.

Vella echoed farmers’ complaints that even the produce Electrofix said it would grow inside its greenhouses, were impossible to grow in the conditions created by the solar farm. “If this goes ahead, it will set a bad precedent for Malta – it will be the end of the environment, and it will damage our tourism product.”

Farmers present explained that the solar panels would be detrimental to the growth of any produce, since their installation would mean that the fields would not be exposed to direct sunlight and would instead fall in the shade. 

An archaeologist explained that the project is located in an area of high archaeological importance in Mġarr, with several archaeological remains at its outskirts. The project would also cause run-off rainwater that would otherwise have been absorbed by soil to flow directly down to the Ta’ Haġrat neolithic temples. 

More than 1,200 objections to the project were submitted to the PA. 

The latest plans seen by MaltaToday envisage the erection of 6,528 panels on 18,760sq.m of land, which represents 42% of the 44,500sq.m site.

The plans rejected by the PA envisaged 5,784 solar panels erected on 90 greenhouses over 14,100sq.m of land – a land coverage of 32%. But while the latest plans actually envisage more panels, the layout leaves room for a central plot of agricultural land. Moreover, the height of the panels was reduced from 4.5m to 4m.

In their appeal, the developers claim the greenhouses will be used to grow “extensive amounts of crops which will be put on the local market for sale, while the solar activity will also be used to lower the commercial cost of the agricultural produce apart from contributing to the national electricity grid.” Plans refer to the growth of vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, aubergines, ginger, herbs, cabbages, strawberries as well as snails.

To circumvent the existing policy against solar farms on agricultural land, the company is now claiming that the main aim of their proposal is to “reinvest in the agricultural activity and making the produce more financially viable.” They also state that they are willing to accept conditions to ensure that should the agricultural activity stop, the solar activity is stopped as well.