Solar farm sets record basking in spring sun

SOLAR FARM RI Farm
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UNSEASONABLY sunny weather has seen a solar farm that helps power a Scottish food business set new records for the time of year.

Mackie’s of Scotland’s solar farm, based on its Aberdeenshire family farm, produced more green energy in April than in any month in 2019 – spiking by more than a quarter against the same month across any of the previous four years.

OWNER: Mac Mackie, Managing Director and one of three sibling owners.

March was sunny and May followed with more heat to make the total production this spring the highest on record since installation in 2016.

In total, across the three months, the 7,000 panel system produced over 640 megawatt hours of electricity – enough to boil over 6.4 million kettles or to power 193 houses for an entire year.

The 10-acre 1.8MW site helps with power for Mackie’s to produce its ice cream and chocolate and complements its four wind turbines (total 3MW). The mix is efficient because the solar panels are able to provide more power in the summer when wind levels tend to drop. This estate means that Mackie’s business is 80 per cent powered by its own renewable energy.

Mac Mackie, Managing Director and one of three sibling owners, said: “It’s nice to be able to talk positively about the weather in Scotland for a change! April really was out of the ordinary and the solar farm’s spike in energy production shows the extent of that.

“We also had a record in February and if June comes close to the summer of 2018 we could be looking at our best ever year for solar energy.”

Built in 2015 by Loch Lomond-based Absolute

Solar and Wind, at the time of completion it was Scotland’s first solar farm.

Along with initiatives like the on-site production of a vast majority of its packaging, Mackie’s is already a carbon positive company and aims to become 100 per cent self-sufficient in renewable energy this year. A £4.5 million investment in eco-freezers, powered with ammonia plant and biomass, is set to be one of Europe’s greenest and most innovative refrigeration systems.

Despite being delayed as a result of the lockdown measures, the First Minister’s announcement to enable the construction sector to make a cautious return to work means that building work has been able to begin again and it is anticipated the system should be operational by the end of the year.

Mac added: “The new freezer will make a tremendous difference to our energy requirements. The efficiency of the new system means that we should cut our energy use by up to 80 per cent. It’s an exciting development in other ways too – the new refrigeration system along new ice cream filling equipment will increase our production capacity and enable us to look at making new types of ice cream.”

As well as the solar farm and wind turbines on the farm, Mackie’s has a smaller array of solar panels fitted on the byre roof to power the milking systems and a further 400kW of heating power for the office and farm houses comes from a biomass plant, ensuring a good mix of renewable power types.

The company’s sky to scoop ethos sees it create everything from milk to its packaging on site. The fourth-generation family farm is based on the 1,500 acre farm, Westertown, in Aberdeenshire. Mackie’s still produces all its ice cream and chocolate on the farm, with fresh milk and cream ingredients from the farm’s own dairy herd.

The farm and ice cream production teams have been able to keep working during the Covid-19 crisis, implementing new distancing and hygiene procedures to supply ongoing demand from customers at home, which has increased in the recent sunny weather.

n To find out more about Mackie’s, visit

www.mackies.co.uk

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