Skip to content

Belfast International Airport Solar Farm Saves £100K–And Guess Who Pays?

April 13, 2017

By Paul Homewood


Hugh Sharman sent me this story from EDIE, who describe themselves as the market-leading information resource driving sustainability in business for nearly 20 years.



The 4.84MWp Crookedstone facility, located a third of a mile from the airport’s terminal building, is also set to save 2,100 tonnes of carbon emissions each year – equivalent to taking 469 cars off the road.

The solar farm generates more than a quarter of Belfast International’s annual electricity needs, and has reportedly enabled the airport to run on solar power alone for nine hours at certain peak generation times.

Belfast International Airport operations director Alan Whiteside said: "The solar farm project has exceeded all expectations. From switch-on in March to the end of the year, the ‘ballpark’ savings were over £100,000.

“The project is consistently delivering a reliable ‘green’ and cost-saving energy supply for the airport. No other airport in either the rest of the UK or Ireland has a similar energy source and we’re delighted with its operation."

Crookedstone is the largest solar energy connection to an airport in the UK and Ireland. The entire project was funded and operated by solar generator Lightsource Renewable Energy through a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), the largest of its kind for UK airports.



Here’s what EDIE forgot to mention:



1) The project receives payment through the Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation incentive, as it beat the deadline of 1st April 2016, when the subsidy scheme was closed to new solar projects.

Currently the RO is worth about £53/MWh to solar projects (they are awarded 1.2 units per MWh; each unit is worth about £44).

Assuming a load factor of 11% (the UK average), the solar farm would produce about 4600 MWh a year, so the subsidy receive from the RO is worth £244,000 a year.

So when Belfast International Airport brags that it has saved £100,000, just remember that it is electricity bill payers across the UK, who are actually paying for it.


2) As the Irish Farmers Journal also points out:

The PPA with Belfast International Airport allows Lightsource to sell electricity at a higher rate than it would by exporting power to the national grid. However, a grid connection is still present to export electricity when supply is greater than the airport’s demand.”

By cutting out the middleman, in this case the National Grid, it is hardly surprising the airport can save money.

However, the Grid is still there, and still needs to be paid for by somebody. And as is pointed out, the airport still needs access to it for the 73% of their electricity that the solar farm can’t supply.

So, again, it is everybody else that has to pay the bills that Belfast International have avoided.


It is, of course, doubly ironic that a large chunk of these grid costs are to pay for all of the renewable subsidy schemes, which Lightsource and the airport have generously benefitted from.

  1. Adrian permalink
    April 13, 2017 10:42 am


    At least they’re honest in that respect.

  2. arfurbryant permalink
    April 13, 2017 11:39 am

    I might be wrong about this, but…

    Do they actually have means of connecting directly to the airport without being connected to the grid? If not, then any electricity produced by the solar farm just goes into the Grid ‘Pot’. This means the airport has no way of knowing whether or not it is using Crookedstone electricity or National grid electricity. If there is no direct connection then there is absolutely no ‘savings’ as the Grid has enough electricity to run the airport normally, without the solar farm. The taxpayer is paying for nugatory electricity with no benefit, other than to the landowner, servicing company or Crookedstone.

    If there is a direct connection, whose job is it to switch from one to the other? Is it done automatically?

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 14, 2017 12:24 am

      ‘The 4.8MW facility outside Antrim will provide more than a quarter of the Belfast International Airport’s annual electricity demand.’ – Irish News

      You’d want them to provide more than a quarter of their supply.

  3. April 13, 2017 2:24 pm

    “The solar farm is set to save 2,100 tonnes of carbon emissions each year – equivalent to taking 469 cars off the road.”

    Firstly, it’s not equivalent to taking any cars ‘off the road’. It merely offsets their CO2 – nothing more. It does NOT offset the congestion, noise or soot emissions of the cars (assuming the leccy would otherwise have been generated by clean-burning gas).  So the ‘taking cars off the road’ claim falsely includes benefits that cannot be attributed to the solar farm.

    Secondly, the number of cars offset is grossly exaggerated:
    The average new car emits 128g CO2 / km. Therefore, driving at an average 60 km/hr, a car will emit 7.7 kg / hour = 67 tonnes per year.
    So the number of cars CO2 emissions which are offset is given by:
    = Solar CO2 saving pa / CO2 pa of a car being driven on the road
    = 2100 tonnes / 67 tonnes per car =  31 cars.

    On average, cars spend 93% of their time parked with the engine off. They get the 469 figure from average annual mileage. But on average at any given time 93% of those 469 cars are parked with the engine off. So they cannot claim to be ‘taking them off the road’. They are already off the road.

    So it’s completely false to conjure an image of a traffic jam of 469 cars being magically taken off the road by this subsidy farm.

  4. Gerry, England permalink
    April 13, 2017 2:43 pm

    National Grid should hit them with a grid access fee of, oh, say £250000 a year.

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    April 13, 2017 3:07 pm

    So, £100,000 in 10 months = £120,000 per year.
    £5,000,000/£120,000 equals approximately a 41 year payback time.
    How many of those panels will still be working after even 25 years?

    • Tom O permalink
      April 13, 2017 3:37 pm

      That is one of the things I have always enjoyed about the solar scammers. Most here have you sign a 20 year contract or so, and then the panels are yours. Of course, they won’t be actually delivering any significant portion of their rated output, so it is now on the owner to replace – and pay for the disposal – of the old panels. It’s really a wonderful operation, and I am sure the hazardous waste fees on the panels won’t be peanuts. So the scammers get the government subsidies, the home owner pays for the panels, and they walk away with no obligations but to spend the money they made. For the scammers, its a win, win, win.

  6. April 14, 2017 7:23 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

Comments are closed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: