L-R: Dale Farm group operations director, Chris McAlinden, group chief executive of Dale Farm Nick Whelan and chief executive of CES Energy, Tom Marren. Image: Dale Farm.

A dairy company is preparing to bring forward what is thought to be the largest ground mount solar farm of its kind to be built in Northern Ireland following the confirmation of a 5MW private wire development in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

Dale Farm will work with CES Energy to begin construction of the development in mid-2017, which will connect directly into the business’ private network at its cheese processing facility in Dunmanbridge.

The company says the project will be the largest of its kind on the entire island after Lightsource completed a 4.83MW farm under a power purchase agreement with Belfast Airport earlier this year.

The new scheme is expected to supply 20% of Dale Farm’s power needs over more than 20 years and according to Tom Marren, chief executive at CES Energy, will demonstrate the opportunities that solar energy presents for the island of Ireland.

“This project continues CES Energy’s focus on financing on-site energy infrastructure projects which provide cost savings for our customers globally. After nearly 20 years of delivering similar projects in Australia, Saudi Arabia and across the UK in the energy, water and waste sectors, we see it as a key solution for delivering cost efficiencies and reduced carbon for our customers,” he said.

The scheme will also deliver considerable environmental gains for Dale Farm, saving 2,460 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

Nick Whelan, group chief executive at Dale Farm, said: “Dale Farm is delighted to be leading the way in the global dairy industry by powering our site in County Tyrone with green energy. This will not only be the largest of its kind on the island of Ireland – we understand it will be one of the most significant solar projects supplying renewable energy to dairy producers worldwide.

“Dale Farm is committed to sustainability and the opportunity to procure solar electricity will aid the company in lowering our carbon footprint and in reducing our operating costs.

“Our core objective is to ensure that we carry on building a strong and viable business for the future, which we can continue to be proud of, and this new development is most welcome.”

He added that the solar farm would also address the shortage of available electricity in the area around the Dunmanbridge plant.